Friday Rant - Copy protection on computer game discs

Friday Rant - Copy protection on computer game discs

Summary: OK, today my rant - copy protection mechanisms used on game CDs and DVDs which mean that you have to have the game in the CD/DVD drive in order to be able to play it.

TOPICS: Hardware

OK, today my rant - copy protection mechanisms used on game CDs and DVDs which mean that you have to have the game in the CD/DVD drive in order to be able to play it.

If you play computer games you'll know what I mean.  You install a game, doing a full install so that you get the best performance (and thus devoting a huge chunk of hard drive to the game), but every time you play the game you're forced to have the disc in the drive.  If you don't, you can't load the game.  Game over.

From a business perspective I can understand the thinking behind incorporating copy protection mechanisms into games.  Digital IP is ripped off mercilessly nowadays and it makes sense to try to stop this happening.  But the problem is that the copy protection schemes are easily bypassed.  Think of any copy-protected computer game and there's a crack or patch available that allows the game to be played without requiring the CD or DVD.

So, you can see why this irritates me.  You need the disc because you can't play the game without it, but the copy protection mechanisms are fatally flawed and if you’re willing to bend the law you can easily download a patch or crack to circumvent the limitation.  So what's the point of adding copy protection?  Anyone wanting to pirate a game can do so and the only people inconvenienced are legitimate gamers who just want to frag some zombies.  I find it a pain in the rear to have to keep all my game discs close to hand.  What's worse is that continually handling and shuffling discs puts them at risk of damage or loss.

Thoughts?  And remember, since it's a Friday, you can vent your spleen about anything tech-related that annoys you!

Topic: Hardware

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  • I'm one of those "legitimate" users...

    Who bypasses the protection scheme so I can play my games without the copy protection.

    It's annoying, especially those stupid keys you have to put in for what? I can understand the need if it has online play like Diablo 2 or WoW or something. So as to check you're not copying it and people aren't duplicating your accounts.

    But to have keys for games does exactly what? Absolutely nothing. It's just another nuisance to customers like me.
  • Same here

    i hate changing CDs/DVDs just to play games. if there is a scratch it cant be read and u r done. and those game companies want $20 for a CD replacement...WTH
    just do what (guildwars), stream it, enter ur key, create password, etc and u can play it on any computer, any country as long as u log in to ur account.
    and protection on those CDs are crap.
    good thing we have Daemon tools :)
    • Can you say....

      "Archive copy"? Many EULA's allow for this, and if they don't who really cares?
  • The point is..

    The point is not to keep the technical savvy from breaking the DRM, it's there for the masses, those mindless zombies you see surrounding the software rack at Walmart.
  • This is the very reason I don't use "games"

    My wife bought one of the Sim titles for my birthday once. I installed the game and it was kinda fun but it insisted on having the CD in the drive while I played.

    That might have been acceptable except the CD was terribly out of balance. It would spin up in my laptop drive and the laptop would actually move around the desk. After about 5 times, I started to get real concerned for the laptop's internal CD drive (quite an expensive item to replace). I stopped playing the Sims and wipe it off of my drive. That was years ago but I haven't bought or tried a game title since.

    [b]That Copy Protection approach certainly does not prevent lost sales.[/b]
    • Here are some game titles that don't require CDs to play.

      Well, here's a list of games I know that don't require a CD in the drive to play the game:

      -Practically all MMORPGs: World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Silkroad, etc. They do require an internet connection the entire time you're playing, though.

      -Games distributed through Steam. Offline mode can be pretty picky sometimes, though. Internet connection required for creating a Steam account, and for downloading the games.

      -Galactic Civilizations, including GalCiv 2. You can install the game from a CD, or you can register it and download it online. Stardock does not copy protect its games.

      In addition, here's a trick that works for most games:

      In most cases (especially if you do a full install), you need the CD only when starting the game.

      Once the game has started, you can actually remove the CD, and most games still work after the CD has been removed and won't complain again unless you try to restart the game.

      Hope that helps.
  • Microsoft is ahead on this issue...

    Since Flightsim 2002, Microsoft has moved to an activation model for their programs (some, not all), meaning you no longer need the CDs. I have installed some of my new MS games multiple times on whatever computer I am primarily using, and I have never had an activation problem. Where are the other companies on this?

    Oh, and long live Gamecopyworld
    • Shows how long since I bought Flight Simulator ...

      ... but FS X does look cool!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • I gave up

    In addition to needing the disk, they install who knows what else and assume ownership of the computer. My computer, my rules. I stopped buying computer games and went to console. Yeah, you still need the disk, but no massive hard drive for the game either, and no personal data to worry about.

    Copy protection also breaks compatibility. I have some games that won't run in WINE or XP, but if you get the no-cd patch, they work just fine. There's also the "may not work on all drives" warning on some games as well. That's when I was considering going back to computer gaming, it was one of the games I wanted and I just said "screw it", it's not happening.
    • Forget Wal-Mart, try Steam or similar online system.

      Luckily, many games are starting to be distributed and handled through the internet instead of through a CD. I myself have been using "Steam" to buy games on. Other online distribution services, such as Windows Marketplace, also exist.

      Read my other posts for details.
      • No

        My requirements for a game

        1) Must not require admin level rights to install
        2) Must not require admin level rights to run
        3) Must not require direct internet access, only indirect

        I was going to get a up to date PC for HL-2. Then it was steam. I went Mac and kept with the consoles.
        • Well, that makes the choices even narrower

          In that case, the list narrows, but doesn't disappear.

          I haven't seen any games that require admin rights to run - usually just the installer required admin access.

          Galactic Civilizations should be fine. I forget if it requires admin access to install, but it can definitely be played without internet access, since it's a single player game.
          • It effectively disappears

            There's no way to tell without some serious research, hence, I don't bother.

            It's easier for me to pick up a game for one of the consoles that I have and know right off it's going to work, no questions.

            A good chunk of games actually do require admin access to run, not because of anything inherent to the game, but because of copy protection requiring direct hardware access. And if it requires admin to install, no way to tell a priori that it's not installing some driver that compromises my system (cf. Sony Rootkit)
  • Ten bucks to fix.

    Get a copy of GameJackal. It lets you set up nearly any game you own to run without the CD, requires no virtual drives like Daemon Tools, and it's perfectly legal.
    • Does it let games run under WINE?

      • Couldn't tell you.

        That I really couldn't say. Their site seems to be down at the moment or I'd look it up for you. :/
  • Copy protection is starting to move to the Internet

    Yeah, like DRM, standard copy protection doesn't work.

    However, the gaming companies are a bit more innovative and more understanding of what customers want than the music industry.

    Instead of focusing on disk duplication itself, game companies are focusing on registration and user accounts.

    The idea is that the user account represents a single person, and that person can own several games.

    When a game is created, a "key" is printed somewhere. The key is totally unique and can only be associated with one account. The person who bought the game can go online and register the key with their account - when they do that, they created a permanent link between the account and the key, and the key can no longer be used with other accounts.

    This requires online access, as the account is stored on the servers of the business that created the game. As the internet has become very popular, however, this is usually not a problem - although it may be annoying for people who play single player games.

    In addition, this may not even require a registration key in some cases: Many games now allow electronic purchases, and when a game is bought electronically, it's automatically linked to the account that bought it.

    This system provides many benefits, both for the publisher and for the player:

    -The publisher can ensure people who are playing the game online are using games that resulted from legitimate sales.

    -The software provided to customers usually isn't just simply for registration anymore: Customers are often given complete account management software, which allows the customer to download and update their games in addition to registering and signing into their account.

    -Customers are no longer tied to a single computer or device: They are tied to an account. This may sound a bit counter intuitive, but it works: The game servers can enforce that only so many instances of the user can be logged in at the same time (usually only one), and can kick (or worse, ban) users that attempt to log in at several places simultaneously.

    -Customers get a benefit also: The game company no longer has to care that the game is played on different computers, since they can enforce that only one instance of the user is logged in. This allows the customer to, for example, carry the game on both a desktop at home and on a laptop on trips. This also makes transferring the game to a new computer easy.

    -In addition, this often makes the CD of a game less important: The account management software, which can be very small and easily carried on a Flash drive, is often all that is needed: Often the entire game can be downloaded! This means a lot less worry about damaged or lost CDs.

    -There [b]is[/b] a drawback: It doesn't really work so well for games that aren't played over the internet (single player games and games played over a local network). If the user is not connected to the internet, a lot of the benefits disappear, as does a the control over multiple instances being active.

    Here are some of the places I've seen this being used:

    -Nearly all MMORPGs. Since they're always played online through the company's own servers, using this system only makes sense.

    -Steam: At first, it was only for Valve's own games, but now it's used for the sale and distribution of a lot of third party games. Unfortunately, it's very picky about playing games offline, even though many titles on it are single player. All games played on Steam require a Steam account, so you need to be able to access the internet even for single player titles!

    -I just encountered EA's system recently. It's more relaxed than Steam: Single player and network play can be accomplished without an EA account. Online play requires an EA account.

    -Stardock's games have no copyright protection and no requirement to have an account. However, updates are done through Stardock Central, and that requires an account.

    The principle of a user being tied to an account rather than a CD or computer is taking the gaming industry by storm, and it's replacing most types of copyright protection.

    Don't worry - it looks like the days of requiring a CD in the drive to play a game are numbered.
    • Big, big negative

      What about when (not if) a games company goes out of business? How do you install?
      • Depends - some games survive better than others

        EA's games such as Command and Conquer don't require user accounts - if EA goes under, then you'll just lose online access. You'll still be able to play single player and LAN games.

        If Valve goes down, you're pretty much screwed. Steam loves having access to their servers. You may be lucky, though, and be able to access offline mode.

        Galactic Civilizations doesn't require user accounts, and would still work. You'd just lose the ability to download further updates if Stardock went under.

        MMORPGs thrive on the company's survival - if the company that owns the MMORPG goes under, then everybody loses access to the game.
        • Eliminates activation required games

          Unless you can archive the activation (e.g. it's in e-mail), you're prevented from reinstalling anything that requires activation if the company goes under.

          STEAM, there's not a chance in hades I'll ever get anything from there. I need to be able to archive the installer if it doesn't come from CD, and I need to be able to archive the activation, and there can't be any network access ever required by the game (I will only run Windows unattached to the internet)