Copy protection company encourages piracy?

StarForce site forum moderator posts link to download pirated copy of Stardock's Galactic Civilations II.

In an ironic twist last week, a moderator on the forums for copy protection software StarForce made it easier for people to pirate a game, posting a link directing users to a site from which they could download illegal "warez" copies of Stardock Systems' PC strategy game Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords.

In response to a user's remark that Dread Lords has been experiencing strong sales despite a lack of copy protection (other than a serial number used to download updates), StarForce forum moderator JM posted a link to a Web site and a message saying that several thousand people were downloading the game illegally. He suggested that the game's success was despite the lack of copy protection, and not because of it.

The offending link has since been removed, and yesterday another StarForce forum moderator offered an apology for the situation.

"In the end, on behalf of the whole StarForce I would like to tender our apologies to all people who have been working on creation of the game Galactic Civilizations II," wrote a moderator using the handle "SF shum." The moderator continued, "We have to officially claim that what has happened is just a mistake of our employee that was boosted into 'our planned PR action' by the people who hate StarForce."

The mod also said it would be the last time a staff member would post a link to a site hosting illegal content, and indicated that the site would be revising its rules and policies in order to prevent such an occurrence from happening again in the future.

Stardock Systems expressed its obvious displeasure with the link to pirate its game on the official Dread Lords Web site, but the game's lead designer and Stardock head Brad Wardell took the time to tackle a few questions about the incident and copy protection in general for GameSpot.

GameSpot: There was a public apology made on behalf of StarForce by one of their mods on their forums. Have they contacted you to apologize directly?

Brad Wardell: I did receive today correspondence from Alan Gasanov of StarForce with an apology over the incident. We appreciate that. I don't think there was any sort of malicious intent. I've been in my share of forum "flame wars" over the years and it's easy to make a mistake. Obviously we were pretty unhappy about them linking to a list of warez torrents but we don't plan to pursue the matter.

GS: Why did Stardock opt not to use traditional industry-accepted forms of copy protection?

BW: It's only industry-accepted in the PC game industry--the industry that people are regularly saying is "doomed." Most of our business is in the application software market (the market that no one argues is "doomed"), and such copy protection measures are not used. I don't have to keep my Adobe Photoshop CD in the drive to use it.

We simply applied the PC application software model of IP protection to our games--release the game with no CD-based copy protection and include a unique serial number that they need to use in order to obtain updates.

What we do is take feedback from our customers and release free updates to our games. Since we have a database of every serial number that's been issued, we can control who has access to those updates. By releasing frequent, convenient, free updates, we reward people for buying the game.

GS: Have you had any positive or negative experience using programs like StarForce in your games?

BW: I don't really have any experience with StarForce. I have read about people having problems with such things but I suspect those problems have been exaggerated.

What other publishers do to protect their intellectual property is up to them. I simply don't [think] CD-based protection is particularly effective. Any copy protection system, in my opinion, should be focused on trying to increase sales--not stop piracy. The two aren't the same. Most people who pirate a software product would never have purchased it. It's pointless to waste time on those people. The people to focus on are the ones who might have bought your product or service but chose not to because it was easier to pirate it.

Most serious PC gamers have had cases where they've lost a CD or damaged it. They resent not being able to play the game because on top of the game using gigabytes of disk space...it's also treating their CD-ROM drive as an expensive dongle key.

As a result, the question is, how many legitimate gamers choose not to buy a game that has CD protection because they're on the fence and know that sooner or later, they'll probably lose that CD? For us, that's the underlying question--do we gain more sales from gamers who were on the fence but decided to buy the game because they didn't have to worry about losing/damaging a CD than we lost through piracy?

GS: Will this change your approach to copy protection in the future?

BW: Not at all. As I type this, EBGames has released their top-selling PC games from last week. Galactic Civilizations II was number one. So if piracy is such a menace, it's not apparently affecting us to the degree that some say it should.

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84 comments
delevero
delevero

For me starforce protection have forced me into buying my favorite game 3 times.

The reason is simply that the developer do not want to renew my key everytime i have changed hardware/upgradet my computer I do that like 4 times every year.. So my key expires... I want to support and buy the gaming industrys games, and even support the indie developers. But I feel very anoyed by such protection and yes i have often found some illegal games that i already "own" simply becourse I did not want to buy the game again to play it..  I think the protection is a problem especially start force and other protection types that do not allow people to like log into a user account and "re activate" their software once their keys have expired...  It would be kind of easy to ask people to create an online account and then they could use their original code and maybe an order confirmation to "re activate" their key when it expires.

Unfortunatly its my impression that more and more companys play hard ball and so to speak force people into buying the game again rather than "rewarding" them with buying a legal game in the first place.

I also think its a problem that pretty much no developer/publisher actually write there are like 5 activation keys to a game, and after that you have to buy a new one..

Its like buying a car and after you visit the workshop the first time they inform you that now they can only make service on your car 4 more times before you have to buy a new one... ;-(   

 

In general YES developers should ofcourse get paid for their games, but having hopeless and extreeme copy protection is not the way forward.  The next problem is places like steam / eastore / ect ect.... where you so to speak bind your software to one account... personal i have 5 different web shop software programs installed just to play my games i bought different places... Why not ask microsoft if they at least would make a kind of system into windows where all people simply could "gather" all their software one place.

Microsoft do not have to store their games ect. but they could simply just "link" to the games at steam and other places. But ofcourse the many webshops will not like this since then they can advertise less and MS properbly would like a pice of the pie..BUT maybe the bigges problem is that prices on video games are very high. If they where made more easy and easy to buy and download then people would rather buy the legal version than downloading virus and other stuff.

It would also be a help if people could install and use their game on maybe 2 different computers at 1 time  ( in the same ip range ).  Maybe its a father that buy a game and will play it and his son sit and play on his computer next to him..  Or its a person that have a big computer at home and a laptop he use other places.

 

I think that many espcially  developers of "the sims" / call of duty  ect. have become greedy and I have notised during the last 1 - 2 years that prices have been raised and fixed to a higher level in pretty much all webstores...  

Today is actually almost 30-50% cheaper to buy a CD/DVD in a shop than a download.. And that is a bid wird since there are much less expenses sellinga download than producing and shipping a cd/box.

 

And STOP the DLC crap.. its anoying to buy stuff that especially in multiplayer will give some an advantage above other people.

The same is with Online MMO's.... WHY buy the game at full price, and then pay the games price 1-2 times every year just to play online...  ( like world of warcraft ).

I never buy such games im simply to cheap to pay.

Autokiller
Autokiller

STAR FORCE SUCKS SO BAD!!!!!!!!!!! everything can (and will) be hacked, it is just a matter of time. and copy protection program such as star force is just an small obstacle for haxxorz but an ANNOYING AND STUPID program for us gamers.

midn8t
midn8t

what silly is that I only bought the game because it didnt have copy portection. be honest though some people like my frined downloaded it torrent wise found out they loved the game and then bought it. I would think that alot of people who downloaded it illeage then turned around and bought it for fact that there was no copy portection. so yah if i bought game mostly becuase it was copy portection free i am sure othere people did also. anyways all games i have frist thing i do is look for a cd crack. when i buy a game thats ingle player i always always look for a cd crack. company of heroes dosnt require you to have the cd in to play infact you can play mutiplayer over as many computers u want in lan using same cd key. with out a cd. and that game was pretty good selller.

The_Cycloid
The_Cycloid

To me, Starforce sucks due to the fact that IT does not work on WindowsXP x64 without getting a "patch" from the GAME MAKER. I bought the US release of Broken Sword 3 (2 years ago) and decided to play it now on my new rig.... Guess what? Does not work and I do not think a Patch will be in the works EVER! I hate Starforce!

hecksign
hecksign

going into my pc without telling me.... erm....

eckertt001
eckertt001

Holy crap...a developer with a brain...who would have thought!

gamespotr0cks
gamespotr0cks

I personally think that all online-based games in the future ($ony clearing moving in that direction now, with Microsoft having broken the ice) should cost next to nothing at retail. Maybe $20 at most. Make those games ONLY playable online. Include a free month of the gaming service ($14-$20/mo sounds fair) with purchase. That, in essence, makes the game "free". If the game is then free, and you need to pay monthly to keep playing, it will eliminate ALL PIRACY of those type of games. The offline games, however, no matter if its on a 4.37GB disc or a 50GB disc, will be pirated. This is unfortunately true of people...they don't want to pay for something they can get for free. With online gaming, piracy will no longer be an issue. Case closed!! btw, I personally loathe Starforce and totally agree with how Stardock has handled the piracy issue. Kudos to them!!!

solaris1979
solaris1979

Almost the solo reason for me to buy this game in the first place was for the reason that the game does not have a copy protection. After that, just happens that I love this game as well

vegedus
vegedus

"Most people who pirate a software product would never have purchased it. It's pointless to waste time on those people. The people to focus on are the ones who might have bought your product or service but chose not to because it was easier to pirate it." Why is he the first to realise? I've been saying this for years! This do not only count for the gaming industry, but even more for the music industry. Why buy a cd when you were going to rip it to the computer anyways? Publishers should start giving us an insentive to buy instead of (not really) making it harder to pirate. The only means the have these days is the lure of multiplayer which doesn't work without a valid cd-key. Give us something we can't get with a pirated game!

cusoker
cusoker

More people should follwo the example of these guys and NOT include copy protection into the disk. I have had too much trouble with copy protection crap to deal with it any more. Rewarding gamers for buying the product with a legitamate SN is the best way to keep people buying the games and not stealing them.

Lart44
Lart44

Just wanted to let every one know that the article that was said to be in Computer Gaming World is indeed fact! I verified that the info is true by receiving a call from Barnes and Noble Book Store. I beleive its on page 28 in the magazine. Below you can see what is quoted in the article just as stated on a post here: http://spellforce.jowood.com/forum/showpost.php?p=574044&postcount=167 Heres some relevant quotes from the full article: Quote: ...we turned to CGW's own desktop administrator, Nick Kalister, for a full technical of what StarForce can (and can't) do to your PC. "Starforce doesn't diretly trash your drives or your IDE controller channels," he explains. "It can, however cause Windows to step down to programmed input/output [PIO] mode, which could possibly damage some optical drives if they are run in that mode for an extended period of time. Quote: Sure enough, an extended test using a 4x Memorex DVD-RW drive and a retail copy of Ubisoft's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory proved it, as the drive's burn speed eventually dropped to a paltry 1x - only to return to its original speed once we removed the StarForce program. Quote: StarForce Technologies, for its part, often takes extreme offense to negative comments... ...When questioned, Zhidkov [SF's PR manager] told us, "The issue on StarForce is obviously sponsored by our competitors or organized crime groups that run CD/DVD piracy [operations]. We are now in close coopreration with [US and Russian officials] investigating the matter and trying to find out who stands behind the boycott campaign.

tramontane
tramontane

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ro-co-to
ro-co-to

In the words of uncle Avi: those sneaky effing cossacks. Trying to screw an honest company like Stardock out of money by linking to a pirated copy. Like many of you have said, Stardock took the high road and responded in a very classy way. Yet what goes around comes around, and maybe soon enough the publishers that use the services of starforce will realize how sickly and bitter those people are and suspend their contracts, here's to that.

Objulen
Objulen

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Objulen
Objulen

I'm glad that Stardock realized that copy protection for a single-player game is useless. Someone's going to break it, and since there's no way to stop this for a single player game. In such cases, copy-protection is simply a waste of money, but it's adhered to due to emotional arguments that lack any economic sense what so ever. The only effective form of copy protection applies to online games, and generally, these don't use CD protection; MMOs account-based system and server-side driven games are the best example, but Valve's Steam is also a very effective system. The irony is that the PC-gaming industry would probably do better if they adopted a model more like Stardock's (for single player games) or Valve's (for multiplayer games), since they wouldn't have to spend money on CD protection in what is inevitably a futile attempt to protect profits.

GreyFoxV1
GreyFoxV1

Good to see at least some people know copy-protection is useless and sometimes broken.

Azurewrathhal
Azurewrathhal

This news report made me feel warm inside. I recently just purchased galciv 2, downloaded it, and recieved the retail box in the mail 2 days later. I love the game, and I love the way stardock handles their games. They've made their way on to my favorite game producers list with values, which in a better world, every company would have.

Maikoattica
Maikoattica

This news makes me happy. I'm fed up of games that require you to jump through too many hoops to get the reward (or the "Game" in these cases), and a company that recognises that copy protection systems can do more harm than good is at least intelligent enough to make that argument. And yet, I still need a No-CD patch to play my legally bought on the day of release DVD version of F.E.A.R.

Rezlow
Rezlow

Man-made, man-broken. He's right about not worrying about chonic-pirates: they aren't going to buy your software one way or the other. Their system is a great idea: offer the customer continued, valued support for the product and they'll stick with you. Most publishers' reactions to pirated software are simply based on anger. That there are people enjoying their product without paying for it. It sucks, but it's not a REAL thing. Nobody stole a copy of the product so that it wasn't available for the next honest person to buy. It's a very grey area that they are trying hard to paint black.

WeeWeeJumbo
WeeWeeJumbo

^^Can't figure out how to enter a serial? Rough. That said, Stardock's response to Starforce's horrible forum moderation team's blunders was classy and admirable. Way to take the high road! This makes me want to buy the game, even though I almost never play games on my busted-ass old PC anymore... you know, the way you go to your favorite gas station, not for the prices, but because the guys there know you by name and talk to you about life. Yeah.

trancejeremy
trancejeremy

Stardock isn't that great. As mentioned, you do need to have a serial number to download a patch, and in some cases, you have to "activate" it via an internet connection. I had lots of trouble with their system. The collector's edition came with 2 serial numbers. When I went to download the patch, I only entered one on the website, as i had entered one into the game itself and thought that was already registered. But it wouldn't let me download the patch because I hadn't entered both. And I couldn't find a link to enter the other serial, because their website disabled that because I had entered one number. So it took quite some while to figure out how to get the patch. Stardock could never bother to help me with their so called customer service. So anyway, while the result is not quite as invasive as Starforce, but the consumer is still basically at the whim of the publisher.

HyperGoo
HyperGoo

They are proud of their game selling well at Walmart? Deer Hunter games was also a best seller at Walmart. Infact, any cheap ass value games sell well at Walmart.

Jamaipanese
Jamaipanese

Kudos to stardock I think there understanding and working out of this cd piracy thing is unique. I waiting on some sweet updates or even a hopefully free expansion ^_^ as reward for loyal customers right?...

chaos386
chaos386

You know what? I'm buying this game JUST BECAUSE it doesn't have some stupid DRM crap in it. I just want to rub it in Starforce's noses. Well, that, and Gal Civ II looks like an excellent game, and it's been forever since I played my last space strategy sim. :D

ReyWing
ReyWing

hm great news. actually made me interested in learning more about starforce and gc2. i may purchase it in the future. ya'll sure this wasnt just a big publicity stunt? hehe anywayz, cool concept about anti-piracy and good morals. reminds me of reverse psychology for some reason.

FrozenCell
FrozenCell

all drm filth is doomed, i'll never buy starforce-infected games.

Oni
Oni

Starforce really messed up my friends PC .. I mean bad. She had to re-install Windows and lost all her current files she had not backed up. She installed a game with SF on it and when she rebooted, everytime it would get to the welcome screen here system would crash. So now before we purchase any PC game, we ask them if it is using star force. If it does use it, we decide to buy something else or nothing at all.

decebal
decebal

I boycot Starforce. Simply avoid buying any game that uses it. It's painful sometimes, but it caused me enough grief to do it.

FrankSoul
FrankSoul

oh and starforce is not even a effective mean of copy protection, its easy to bypass

FrankSoul
FrankSoul

i also am a student for the video game industry ( Game design and level design) piracy is not a good thing when people who usualy buy the game download it instead of buying it . on the other hand, Brad Wardell is right those who do extensive amount of pirating are usually the same people who would not even buy the game. the best way to promote the sales of games in general is to give a really good product ( not one full of bugg and problem IE: Half life 2 FORCED ONLINE CONNECTION!) a game that has good replay and lenght of play ( unlike Unreal 2), a really good online support , new content available for download and such. Beside those that download the pirated game may end up buying it if its really good and delivers what the customer is looking for.

Barzenak_40
Barzenak_40

Because if you really dislike Starforce there is only one way to kill it....do not purchase any games using it. That is the only meathod the UBISOFT's and others will understand. It is about money and if using SF costs them sales ..SF will die as it should. I bought GAL CIV 2 the first day it was out digitally downloaded it and all the cash went to Brad and company. I did it to show my support for this meathod as it is far superior to what is going on in copy protection .... It may be their IP but it is OUR rigs. I will not risk mine to Starforce ...ever again. Read up on Starforce and see what other gamers are going through..... it simply has gone too far.

Seraphim_24
Seraphim_24

As an artist myself (and a student developer) I can say this. Piracy is evil, and should be stopped, simply because if someone can't be bothere dto pay for something they should not be entitled to a copy, especially considering the tremendous amount of work that goes into software development. Hundreds of people can be attached to a project at any given time, and believe me, the folks involved with the game deserve every penny even if it makes them filthy rich. In fact, that used to be the American dream, to do something big that will make you filthy rich. Now there is some debate over if that's even possible, and piracy (while not the only factor) is a huge part of the problem. Personally, if you like the product I don't see why you wouldn't want to pay for it to encourage the developer to continue. I go out of my way to do that. In my home I don't have any unlicensed anything. My debt to income ration is sky high, and I only make $10 an hour, (that used to be a lot before Bush and inflation, now its not enough to get by) but I have managed to pay for everything I have. If I can do it, anyone can.

Igiss
Igiss

StarForce is a virus that messes with protected areas of Windows and modifies hardware drivers. Those who created StarForce are software pirates who support illegal distribution of games not protected by their product. This illegal and shameful affair should be stopped.

foxy42
foxy42

What a refreshingly enlightened perspective from a games publisher. Bravo.

Compulsion
Compulsion

DomovoiWasBezet, It's not terribly easy to get around. StarForce hijacks some low-level system resources. Most people who crack it end up having to disconnect their IDE drives in order to play. The reason people don't buy a game with StarForce is precisely that they 'don't wany[sic] pay for this game'. I personally don't support draconian DRM regardless of the format. I will not be upgrading to next-gen DVD players for video. I'll be letting my money do my voting. I support StarDock's choice to avoid DRM, and I also support Bethesda's choice to avoid StarForce. The likes of StarForce and their second-rate driver-programmer-wanna-be's should not be allowed to have their poorly-tested, poorly-implemented digital litter installed onto my computer.

DomovoiWasBezet
DomovoiWasBezet

It's interesting that a lot of people here are claiming that they're "not buying games because they use starforce", and that "starforce is easy to work around." If that is true, then why didn't you buy those games anyway and work around the copy protection on your -legal- copy? That way you'd support the developers without being hassled by Starforce. Or is 'Starforce sucks' really just an excuse for 'I don't wany to pay for this game'?

Reetesh
Reetesh

Wow. What a bad thing to do. Atleast they apologised and everything is ok now

Septimus
Septimus

If I hadn't switched to Mac I would buy this game just to show support for StarDock. Hell, I still might if Virtual PC for MacTel proves good enough when it's released. Like a lot of other gamers here, I have chosen to not buy good PC games thanks to them having StarForce. I use DaemonTools for legitimate reasons (ISO handling of Linux Distro's or masters of video edits) and don't want it disabled/uninstalled just to play a game.

thepyrethatburn
thepyrethatburn

Whoa. I just cruised Starforce's forums and I almost feel sorry for the Starforce guys. They are just getting hammered from all sides, not just over the "unintentional" slip-up with Gal Civ 2 but on just about everything from the quality of their product to Bethesda deciding not to use Starforce with Oblivion. Admittedly, they bring it on themselves when they do things like display the hacked Gal Civ2 links or when one of the mods badmouths Bethesda because they "succumb to panic" over the community threatening lowered sales when, in reality, Bethesda is just making a business decision. Still, if I were an admin on that forum and I had to deal with that much negativity, I suspect that I would lose my temper after a while too.

IAmKhoa
IAmKhoa

I chose not to buy many good games just because StarForce was on them. Enough said.

osabros
osabros

starforce isn't such an incredibley good protection i've worked round it many times before.

Fallout_red
Fallout_red

My god... That was a terrible thing. IMO SF wanted to destroy Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords just because they didn't use their SF lock. They must be punished, this is terrible news. I publisher just trusts gamers and doesn't put a lock like SF and look what they do to it. SHAME ON YOU SF...

hotrod4399
hotrod4399

there will always be protection and there will always be cracks to get around that protection.... it takes longer to make a program such as starforce then it does to figure out how to disable/crack it.....