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The Secret Of Monkey Island

Caught you red-handed: 9 games with creative copy protection

If you’re going to use DRM, you might as well have a sense of humor about it.

By Matt Gerardi, John Teti, and Drew Toal • May 16, 2013

1. Game Dev Tycoon (2013)
Game Dev Tycoon

DRM—an initialism for “digital rights management” copy protection—has a lousy reputation, and it’s well-earned. Most players have encountered onerous DRM that punishes paying customers while doing little to deter pirates (who often find ways to crack a DRM-protected game anyway). And yes, it’s gross when, say, a publisher forces you to check in with a nanny server every time you want to play a game. But in principle, encouraging legitimate purchases is a noble aim. That’s why it was so amusing this year when the makers of Game Dev Tycoon revealed their scheme for teaching pirates a lesson. Game Dev Tycoon is a simulation in which you run your own video game studio. It’s DRM-free, so the Tycoon developers knew it would inevitably be stolen. They decided to preempt the wave of theft by seeding a “cracked” version of Tycoon on a popular BitTorrent sharing site. Hapless pirates who downloaded this version found that the game functioned just like the normal version—except that after a few hours, the simulation would unleash virtual pirates on the virtual game studio, plunging it into ruin. That’s right: In this video game about making video games, real-world pirates were punished by a scourge of pretend pirates. As Kotaku reported, the real-life pirates had the temerity to complain about their plight on message boards, with one nincompoop asking if it’s possible to put DRM on his simulated games. Of course, Game Dev Tycoon is itself a fairly faithful clone of Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story. The mind boggles with all the layers of irony.

2. EarthBound (1995)

The Game Dev Tycoon tomfoolery is funny because it lets the thieves think they’ve gotten away with it. The Super NES game EarthBound pulls a similar but much crueler trick. If the lowdown dirty bootleggers of the ’90s managed to circumvent its first few layers of copy protection, the EarthBound code would yield and present an almost normal game. But the program still knew it was not running on a legit cartridge—EarthBound Central has the technical details—so it would annoy players by flooding the world with way too many enemies. Still, while this is obnoxious, it’s not an insurmountable obstacle. So, for truly persistent bootleggers, EarthBound unleashes the nuclear option of copy protection—the ultimate “fuck you” to those who would steal this wonderful game. On a pirated copy, when players reach the final boss battle, EarthBound freezes up and then proceeds to delete every goddamn save file on the cartridge. What better punishment for thieves than to trap them in a Sisyphean hell of perpetually unfinished business?

3. The Secret Of Monkey Island (1990)
The Secret Of Monkey Island

PC games of the ’80s and early ’90s often came packed with “feelies”—physical accessories to the game like maps, postcards, and desk toys. Feelies could serve as a sort of low-fi copy protection system, too. A game might, for instance, ask players to enter a password from a codebook included in the retail box, which is a problem if you only possess a pirated electronic copy of the software. Perhaps the most famous of these proto-DRM feelies is The Secret Of Monkey Island’s “Dial-A-Pirate” wheel. When it’s time for the copy-protection check, Monkey Island displays a picture of a pirate and a tropical locale where said pirate was hanged. Players rotate the wheel to create the face and then enter the corresponding date. This is all very amusing until you lose track of the Dial-A-Pirate thingy. The inconvenience factor was one reason that feelies like the code wheel fell out of favor—that and the rise of internet forums, which made this already shaky piracy protection even easier to circumvent.

4. Serious Sam 3: BFE (2011)

Serious Sam has always been the simplest and twitchiest of simple and twitchy shooters. Headless dudes holding bombs—screaming despite their lack of heads—and monsters run toward you. You sprint backward or in circles around them and blast them to bits. Rinse and repeat. Folks who pirated Serious Sam 3 were treated to a new wrinkle to the formula: an extra-fast, bulletproof scorpion-man-monster that attacks them in the game’s first level. It’s not clear whether the immortal pursuer was a complete roadblock to progressing through the game, but one has to assume that if it couldn’t die, the player would be held back from finishing the first level in a game where the only objective is “KILL EVERYTHING.” This fun bit of DRM made headlines when it was first discovered, and many players were disappointed that the beast wasn’t a feature in the real version of the game. It’s true. A “pink immortal scorpion-demon” difficulty mode doesn’t sound half-bad.

5. LovePlus+ (2010)
LovePlus+

The dating-simulator genre has typically been a Japan-only thing, a mainstay of otaku culture. Japanese developers have struggled—on the rare occasions that they’ve even tried—to find an overseas audience for games in which you feverishly raise the “affection levels” of young women so that they’ll be attracted to you. Still, even if we’re not familiar with all the conventions of the genre, the copy protection on the LovePlus+ dating sim seems extraordinarily cruel. Players of pirated copies are able to meet and greet adorable anime-style girls as usual, but whenever a save file is loaded, the women’s fondness for the player is reset to zero. They’ll never date the bootlegger, and they’re constantly annoyed with them. Funny? Sure. Unless you’re the lonely guy who now has to face the reality that even computer women refuse to spend time with him. Then it gets pretty dark. Hackers soon found a way around this intentional “glitch,” though, allowing pirates to enjoy fully functional virtual dates. Success…?

6. ARMA series (2001-2013)/Take On Helicopters (2011)

If Call Of Duty is a Michael Bay flick, ARMA is a Kathryn Bigelow joint. It’s realistic and complicated, emphasizing tactics over spectacle. Ever since 2001’s Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, a precursor to ARMA, the games have included an affliction called DEGRADE that punishes pirates by, well, degrading the game over time. (The system is also referred to as FADE, although the developers have distanced themselves from that name because it is used by another company.) The first symptom of DEGRADE is inaccurate weaponry—guns that fire feet and then yards away from where they were aimed. You might notice vehicles starting and stopping at random or a trippy visual effect that blurs the screen. The final symptom of DEGRADE turns the beleaguered player’s soldier into a bird as the message “Good birds do not fly away from this game, you have only yourself to blame” appears on-screen. Maybe this is all an avant-garde step toward realism, replicating the degradation of a soldier’s psyche as they experience the horrors of war. Or not.

7. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman is a survivor. The dude has been through more scrapes than, say, a little girl who scrapes her knee a lot. But how does he do it? The intensive martial arts training, sure. The near-limitless resources of Bruce Wayne, definitely. The super intelligence and Alfred’s quiet devotion also help. But Batman, lacking the superpowers of most comic book heroes, relies on the proper functioning of his equipment to overcome his opponents and get back to Wayne Manor in one piece. If Batman were to, say, not pay top dollar for materials and technology—if he went the cheapskate route—things might not end super awesome for the Dark Knight. In Batman: Arkham Asylum, those who opted not to pay for the game encounter a severe mechanical failure. Batman’s gliding ability, necessary to get through the first 10 minutes, is disabled. Batman plummets to his death, the Batmobile loses its wheel, and the Joker gets away. So to speak. One pirate actually took to the Arkham Asylum publisher’s internet forum to ask about the problem. A staff member responded with, “It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code.” Yikes.

8. Michael Jackson: The Experience (2010)

Piracy was a serious problem for both Sony’s PSP and Nintendo’s DS. On the DS, it was as simple as buying what was essentially a blank game cartridge, downloading games, and dumping them on there. To combat piracy of what was sure to be a blockbuster hit, Ubisoft’s Michael Jackson: The Experience, the creators included a bit of code that would detect an illicit copy and trigger vuvuzelas—those horns (in)famously and incessantly blared during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The racket played over all the rhythm game’s songs, which is probably the only way to ruin “Billie Jean.” Scratch that. Even with the vuvuzelas, “Billie Jean” is still pretty good.

9. Crysis Warhead (2008)

Saints Row The Third gets a lot of credit for innovative gun design—the Shark-O-Matic and the Mollusk Launcher are two of the finest fish-based assault weapons of all time. But it’s not the first game to cross wildlife with small arms. Crysis Warhead, a standalone companion game for the original Crysis, follows the adventures of one Michael “Psycho” Sykes as he kills a bunch of dudes for some reason. Events take an even greater turn for the psych-tacular in pirated copies of Warhead, as Sykes’ withering gunfire comes out as a barrage of confused chickens. I’m not sure how the birds squeeze out of the gun barrel, but there they are, clear as day. It’s meant to be a check on piracy, but this stunt raises the question: What’s more psycho than a friggin’ chicken gun? Maybe the developers were onto something here.

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  • Citric

    FF: Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates:: would let you play for a bit, and then it would pop up a screen of adorable moogles that said “Thank you for playing.” I always thought it was a somewhat benevolent way to handle pirates, they get a short demo (thus quieting the people who justify it by saying they want to try before they buy) and some kind words but they don’t get to progress until they buy.

  • Citric

    Also, didn’t GTAIV have an anti-piracy check that just made you drunk all the time? 

    • CrabNaga

      It made you drunk all the time, and when driving, your car would randomly veer to the left or right.

      • brokenwheelchair

        & it’s irritating as hell because it’s easy to trigger while modding.

  • neodocT

    Hey, this was just posted! I’m working late tonight finishing some work, and decided to take a break over here. Is that how people get to comment on these so early?

    As to piracy, I’ve never seen a funny message in a pirated game, but I’m also not usually one to pirate.

    My one big exception is the DS. It is by far the most played game system I ever had, and while I bought my fair share of games, I also had a flash cart for it and downloaded many more. The thing is that it wasn’t even because of prices, necessarily, but that using a flash cart was just so much more convenient than keeping track of cartridges, and it also gave me easy access to many obscure games that I doubt I would have found otherwise. Not to mention all those deliciously weird Japanese games and the irritatingly European-only releases.

    So… yeah, piracy’s not nice, but being able to carry dozens of games in my DS at a time? It’s just too good and too easy, and makes me think Nintendo should have really invested on the whole digital distribution bandwagon earlier.

    • Fluka

      I think the convenience factor is what makes Steam such an incredibly popular form of DRM, to the extent that I’ve heard people say they won’t buy a game unless it’s on Steam.  The combination of easy installation, the social features, and being able to centrally organize and re-download your PC games collection makes it seem so much more convenient that scouring for torrents.  Heck, it managed to pretty much wean my husband 100% away from piracy, except for some old abandonware and emulator titles. 

      Plus, dem sales.  When a little patience can get you a game for less than 10$ a few months later, it just seems so petty to pirate.

      • Citric

        The thing is, as I discovered in my most pirate-y days – university, when money was in short supply – piracy is popular because it’s cheap and easy. Steam took the utterly brilliant step of being so much easier than piracy, and then periodically making everything cheap.  

        • neodocT

           I’ve got to admit that I also thought pirating was somewhat fun. Downloading a file and then spending time looking up how to make everything work, how to bypass DRM, how to get patches, etc. I may have had way too much free time in the past, but I did enjoy the problem-solving aspect of pirating.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @neodocT:disqus: Sounds like piracy was a game in and of itself!

        • vinnybushes

           That is one of the best simple explanations of steam’s success I’ve heard in a while. I used to have a friend who described steam sales as something akin to costco or walmart, except without the strongarm tactics and market manipulation (that we know of).

        • Effigy_Power

          I used to pirate quite a bit myself, but Steam seems to have found the right way to tap into my wallet without making me feel like I am being cheated. Mind you, I still pirate games in order to try them out when companies ask $60 and don’t provide a demo or a game-trailer that provides me with a bit more than some shitty CGI.
          If I buy a full-price game, which doesn’t happen often, and it’s a piece of crap, I will be a lot unhappier about that if I didn’t have a chance to try it out first… enough to not buy games from that developer for a while. The downfall of the demo is definitely a factor in MY piracy habits.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         Yeah, it kind of amazes me, especially since my relationship to Steam is best described as “grudging.”

        “Looks like I have an hour free to play something, let’s load up Brutal Legend…oh, what’s that? You’ve started downloading an update for it, and won’t let me run the game until the update is done? How long will that take? Two hours?! Well, so much for that. Would have been nice if you asked.

        Hey, I’ve got Anodyne installed on my laptop, and I still have a ways to go in that – I’ll just play that instead. Oh…what’s that Steam? Oh, I can’t play any of my games on my laptop because my desktop is logged in to Steam and downloading an update I didn’t ask it to. Great. Obviously only a criminal would want to play a game on one computer while another downloads stuff. This is kind of bullshit, Steam.”

        I mean it’s very convenient when it all works right (something like the above scenario has happened to me more than once), but it’s still DRM and still kind of sucks. I’ll never buy anything on the service that costs double-digits, and even then I’d gladly pay more for a GOG or Humble Bundle copy of the game I can actually own (if only I’d been more patient, I could have gotten a DRM-free Brutal Legend in the Humble Doublefine Bundle!).

        • neodocT

          I’m usually more than okay with Steam, but in large part because I never experienced any significant problems with it. My updates are infrequent, and rarely require more than a few seconds to be applied. But I’m sure I would be furious with the service if it took so long that it seriously hampered my enjoyment of the games.

          As it is, in my experience at least, Steam is a good aggregator service, that offers enough discounts to be attractive, while also doing its best to stay out of the way of the gameplay. And it’s reached a point where I have so many games on my Steam library that I sometimes avoid getting non-Steam games mostly because I’m sure I’ll end up forgetting I even got them if they’re not listed in my library I even tend to activate GOG games on Steam for that purpose: so I won’t forget about them.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          [first-world problems] idea of the service having to call home for me to play my games really rankles me (I know there’s an offline mode, which I wound up using to trick it to let me play on my laptop in the above scenario. But half the time it says there’s ‘no login information’ on my computer, and need to connect to the internet before it will let me even look at any of the games I ostensibly ‘own’). I know it’s not terribly likely I’ll end up in a place where I have no internet connection at all, but I’ve definitely lived in situations like that in the past (when living abroad), and the idea of just being locked out of my stuff in those situations seems super-crappy.

          I’m happy to pay for Steam games when the prices are as low as it used to cost to rent games, though. That’s a price I’m used to paying for something I don’t actually get to own.

          Being locked out of my entire game library on one computer, because I’m logged into another, is seriously stupid, though. You don’t want me running the same software at the same time on two computers? That makes sense – MS Word and Adobe programs will check on that sort of thing too (though they won’t lock you out for being offline, and they typically give you two licenses you can run concurrently). But they don’t lock you out of every other productivity program on your computer. Not being able to play one game on my laptop while a different one updates on my desktop is kind of idiotic.
          [/first-world problems]

        • http://profiles.google.com/vulpisfoxfire Christopher Forsyth

           Awww, poor baby. You can turn off automatic updates, you know–though that still won’t do you any good it it’s the game you want to play that needs to update–for multiple reasons, (including multiplayer capability), they *require* you to have the latest version to play.

          As for complaining about being unable to play on your laptop while you’re logged in on your desktop–you have *no* idea how this actually works, do you. When you buy a game on Steam, you’re buying it for one person, yourself, on your account. Not a copy that you then share on a LAN with all your buddies.
          Valve knows you can’t physically be in two places at once. So when it sees a second person trying to access your account, it assumes that either a) You’re an idiot who gave your credientials to someone else and are trying to share your single-user purchases around, or b) someone’s hacking your account. Either way, they get a big ‘NO’ to access, until the other connection is logged out. Very basic multi-user security, really.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           @google-1fb99bf8912bc3edc375294451e3e6bb:disqus : It’s great that you care so much about a particular company’s DRM strategy to act in a completely obnoxious and inappropriate way to someone you don’t know after half-reading part of a comment of theirs. It’s always a little refreshing to be reminded of the piss-poor caliber of 90% of internet video game comment conversation, since we tend to get a little spoiled around these parts.

          You’ll note I specified that it makes total sense not to be able to run the same license of the program on two computers at once. What is bad design is locking people out of their entire game collection on one computer because they are forcing you to update the installation of one particular program on one particular computer.

          When I downloaded and installed the patch for my GOG copy of Fez on my desktop*, if doing so had barred me from playing, say, a GOG copy of Botanicula or The Witcher on my laptop, that would be totally idiotic. Steam normalizes totally idiotic practice, which is something to be expected from a crummy DRM system.

          Again, sometimes the prices are worth putting up with that crummy system, and with not actually owning the games you buy. But design decisions like that highlight why I’ll never pay full price (or, honestly, more than 10 or so bucks) for anything on their service.

          (*Something I was able to do manually when I had time, and wasn’t required to immediately instead of playing a game.)

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        One of the reasons I’m so fond of the PC gaming scene of the 90s was that DRM was mostly absent. CD burners were uncommon. Limited disk space and bandwidth meant that downloading full games from the internet was unheard of. 

        The best solution is, as you said, to make legitimate purchases easier than pirating. 

      • Eco1970

        This. I loathed Steam when it first came out, raged along with everyone else cos it was awful, frankly, but now? Literally everything I play I buy through Steam. I live in a country where English isn’t the first-language, and PC games in the stores are all localised, so Steam is a godsend.

        Plus it’s cheap and conveneint, and now I discovered Skyrim’s Steam Workshop has cool mods for free (i have a working TARDIS!) it’s even more amazing.

        If only the PSN was as good. PS3 games here are also localised sadly. (Irritating language limitations are matter cor anothrr thread).

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          Doesn’t PS3 just check the system language to determine which language you’re getting? Mine hasn’t spoken a word of German ever since I told it to stop doing that, but maybe that’s an EFGIS thing.

        • neodocT

           I detest localized games. I don’t want shitty dubbing, just give me the option to play in whichever language I want!

          @DestroyHimMyRobots:disqus In my experience, it really depends on the game. Some have several languages built in, so they will play in the language of  your PS3, but many have one pre-installed language and leave it at that.

        • Eco1970

          Yeah, in my experience, 90% of the PS3 games on the shelves here locally (Poland) are worthless to me.

        • George_Liquor

           I’ve downloaded a couple of Japanese PS1 games for my PS3, and I’ve noticed that no localization was performed at all. Even the name of the game as it appears in the PS3′s menus is in Japanese. I found that to be kinda cool, though it does make identifying the game a bit difficult.

      • duwease

        Convenience was a big part of it (if not *the* big part of it) back when I was a young, brash pirate.  Living in a small town, my only option for legitimate PC game purchases were to go to Wal-Mart and hope that by some fluke of luck they had a legitimate game nestled in their mountain of crap-ware.  I ended up buying a lot of truly awful shovelware just because that’s what was available.

        The other option was to stumble across a recent copy of a PC gaming magazine somewhere and buy it, then mail a check to a mail-order gaming company who advertised in the back, who would promptly get me my game in 8-12 weeks.  Comparatively speaking, spending 3 hours copying two-dozen floppy disks from my friend or spending 2 days downloading a game from a local BBS on a 2400 baud connection made far more sense.

      • NakedSnake

        The problem with Steam, though, is that you never technically own the games. Steam reserves the right to take away access to certain games (or ALL your games), if they feel you are hacking/exploiting/whatever. Not that I anticipate that happening, but it’s still disconcerting. That, combined with the DRM issues, encourage me to buy a game I love on GOG even if I already own it on Steam. Buying from steam feels like renting.

        • The Archmage of the Aether

           This was a problem for some friends in India. They had no internet in their home, so they went down to a local coffee shop to hang out and play there. Unfortunately, it seemed that the coffee shop IP address had been blacklisted, and just by logging in there, they lost everything the’d paid for. Bummer.

        • NakedSnake

           @The_Archmage_of_the_Aether:disqus That’s terrible. I’d consider that to be a major scandal worthy of a thinly-sourced journalistic expose in Kotaku or some shit. So yea, when you ‘buy’ a game from Steam, in reality you’re actually leasing it from them, and you are entitled to continue playing it at their discretion.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Totally. I used to be pretty uniformly anti-Steam due it its DRM (especially, since, like Archmage’s friends, there have been times in my life where I lived abroad with no home internet), but a major sale last year that knocked the prices of games down to “Blockbuster-rental” level made me re-evaluate that blanket dismissal.

          Now I’ll get stuff on Steam if it’s priced as a rental, because then I don’t feel bad about not owning it. (And sometimes, if it’s a little more expensive on GOG, I’ll still pick it up on GOG for that same reason).

          • NakedSnake

            I always feel guilty, because I like everything that GOG stands for (historical preservation society for great games), but I secretly like playing the games better on steam b/c its easier and there are more extras. It pains me to see GOG trying to pick up the slack by increasingly focusing on new games.

    • The_Helmaroc_King

      In my timezone, Gameological updates at 10PM and AV Club updates at 11PM, although I don’t know if that changes with Daylight Savings Time. Suck on that, east coast!

      • neodocT

        Well, you’re like, living in the past, man!

    • vinnybushes

      FYI: Gamelogical is initially updated at midnight eastern, and The AV Club is updated at midnight central as a result of where their respective offices are located. You will notice yourself getting a lot less sleep as a result.

      • neodocT

         Since the TV Club reviews tend to update whenever, I never did figure out when the main site updated. Good to know! Except, you know, for never sleeping again.

    • illegal_characters

      Is that motherfucking Cebolinha? Kudos, Sir.

  • Fluka

    I have (not so) fond memories of scrambling to find my manual when Kings Quest VI wanted to check its copyright protection.  Instead of just a quick screen at the beginning of the game or install, however, Sierra actually built the DRM into the game itself as a puzzle.  At some point Prince Alexander has to climb the “Cliffs of Logic”, summoning steps in a rocky cliff by solving word and ideogram puzzles.  The sometimes clear, sometimes cryptic clues for these puzzles are all located inside the game manual.  Oh, and be careful to answer very carefully or you’ll plummet to your untimely death.  Later, you need to navigate a floor puzzle in a labyrinth, again using a riddle located in the damn manual.  Oh, and be careful to step on the right tiles or your body will be immediately be shot through with a hundred arrows.  

    Sierra adventure puzzles + 90s physical DRM = my nine year old self finally said “Oh fudge this” and bought a walkthrough guide.

    • neodocT

      I love reading manuals, but hate when they are necessary to progress through the game. I appreciate the cleverness, but it really bugs me. More recently, while playing Metal Gear Solid for the first time, I had some problem finding a Codec number that is only found in the back of the game’s CD case. Ugh. 

      Also, one of my earliest gaming memories is asking my parents for King’s Quest VII after playing it a a friend’s house. They got me KQV instead, which I was unhappy with at first, and became furious when I got stuck early on. I’m pretty sure I cried until I got KQVII. I may have have had a somewhat spoiled childhood.

      • Fluka

        Fury, frustration, and disappointment go hand in hand with the King’s Quest experience!  If tears aren’t shed…well, then you’re probably playing a LucasArts game.

        Come to think of it, if KQVI was my first childhood memory of DRM, KQVII was my first experience of bad frame rates and crashing.  Such educational games they were!

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Roberta Williams and I definitely had a sadistic dom/sub relationship through much of my childhood. I was so happy when I discovered LucasArts.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000590707081 Chris Ingersoll

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus Not that LucasArts didn’t have their own brand of feelie DRM. I distinctly remember an incredibly hard-to-read black-on-maroon pamphlet of symbols that you had to reference in order to bypass Dr. Fred’s Nuke-Em Alarm System. Maybe it was just Maniac Mansion?

          Other than that, KQ3 and its spellbook was the one I most remember. Most of the other methods were easily bypassed by access to the office (or, in my dad’s case, police station) copy machine, but that thing had a tiny handwritten-styled font in blue ink.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           @facebook-100000590707081:disqus Roberta’s punishment of our nation’s children during the 80s/90s extended far beyond DRM – LucasArts never subjected me to that much ludic abuse!

          While the LucasArts CD games didn’t have DRM (because who could ever copy a CD??), their older floppy games sometimes had something, like the pirate faces above (my floppy MI didn’t have that, though), or Monkey2′s Mix-N-Mojo wheel, or the Nuke-Em Alarm codes you mentioned. They weren’t too bad, though. And they were distinguishable from the rest of the game, unlike the Sierra-verse where you couldn’t really distinguish between unfair DRM punishment, and the games’ general trend of administering unfair punishments.

      • Citric

        Last time I played MGS a friend and I were really drunk. When you’re really drunk, you don’t make the connection between “CD case” and the case where the CDs live.

        We spent an inordinate amount of time looking for the hidden location of the CD case in game, combined with a great deal of time drinking rum.

        • neodocT

          I have a friend who is a superfan of the MGS series, so I just called him and asked him what to do. I’m sure I would have been stuck otherwise.

          I’m not completely sure right now, but don’t you also actually have a disk or something in your inventory in that part of the game, to further confuse the player?

        • vinnybushes

           I played the Gamecube “Twin Snakes” version where they say “on the box” instead of “on the Cd case”. I spent twenty minutes examining all the cardboard boxes I had acquired before going on gamefaqs and feeling like an idiot. especially considering I had watched my friends play the through two thirds of the ps1 game several years before.

      • Syje

        Holy shit, are you me? I also wanted KQVII and instead got V. I ended up liking it but for a young kid it was basically an unbeatable game.

        • Enkidum

          Spoiler alert: @neodocT:disqus probably isn’t you.

        • neodocT

           I wish @Syje:disqus was me, so I could go to sleep and leave him with this work.

          I should probably also warn myself I’m getting LASIK done tomorrow, so I don’t forget.

        • duwease

          KQV is possibly the king of “F.U.” puzzles designed to force you to call hint lines.  Kids these days and their complaints about microtransactions.. in my day you bought the game and STILL got stuck unless you paid for the hint line!! *Shakes mouse in air*

      • http://sarapen.ca/ Sarapen

        Where did you get stuck? Was it that bit with the snake you couldn’t get past? I also had the same experience except KQV was my first adventure game and I’d gone into it thinking it was a side-scroller or something. I think I eventually got antsy enough about not having something else to play that I eventually went back and figured out what I was supposed to be doing.

        • neodocT

          I can’t be too sure, as I must have been 6 or 7 at the time of my anecdote, but looking up the snake scene on youtube did awaken some weird memories.

          And I was fully aware of what adventure games were like, having played KQVII briefly at my friend’s, it just wasn’t the adventure game I wanted. I’d rather have the mother and daughter traversing deserts and smelly caves game, apparently.

        • Vermes

          SPOILERS FOR AN AWFUL GAME. I remember that you had exactly one opportunity to save the mouse from the cat in a random event. If you didn’t, you couldn’t finish the game because the mouse wouldn’t be around to save you from murderers later, not that you’d have no reason to assume that he should be. And if, in saving the mouse, you threw the wrong item at the cat (of course the game would let you waste a couple of them needlessly), you would also be trapped forever in an unbeatable scenario. To be able to save the mouse, you first had to traverse a desert maze, making all the right moves so that you wouldn’t die of exposure. Your reward for the desert quest? A damn dirty old boot. Which you need to throw at a cat. So that a talking mouse will save you from bandits at a later date.

      • NakedSnake

        What were the games that had you enter the 5th word of the 20th page of the manual or whatever?  Lands of Lore? Sierra? At any rate, I always appreciated their refreshingly direct take on DRM. All the other games were concerned about not breaking the immersion of the game, and so their requests to check the manual or whatever were opaque and confusing. DRM breaks the immersion of the game, period. Either be direct or have a sense of humor about it.

        • http://gameological.com/author/mattkodner/ Matt Kodner

          Oh man @baneofpigs:disqus I just played through Lands Of Lore again a few months ago. Trying to reenter the castle at the very beginning, only to be asked to solve the Riddle Of The Missing Word drove me nuts.

          Even though I was able to track down a pdf of the manual, a few of the puzzles were just made straight up incorrectly. 

          Apparently they took them all out for the rerelease with voice acting (Patrick Stewart!)

          • NakedSnake

            Yea, that game is great and certainly worth re-playing. I think I’ve bought it three different times at this point. One of my happiest moments was when I realized you could play it with ScummVM on an android/apple phone. The Urbish Mines were so hardcore. I also always died in frustration during that castle where the ghosts come through the walls to attack you.

        • http://warren-peace.blogspot.com/ WarrenPeace

          I remember doing that with the encyclopedia that came with Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego a whole bunch back in the day.

        • http://gameological.com/author/mattkodner/ Matt Kodner

          @baneofpigs:disqus that tower was brutal. 

          One of the times when I replayed it (and it’s been so many times) I couldn’t remember what to do for that green goo monster guarding the mines. After dying too many times I convinced myself it must be a glitch, and I couldn’t possibly be at fault. 

          I actually mentioned this as something I had to walk away from not too long ago in a Q&A.

          I was worried no one had ever heard of it! Pah!

          • NakedSnake

            Oh man, I forgot about the pit/disk room. Despite playing the game many times, I think I’ve only beaten it once. I think I beat that room through dumb luck. On the Goo Monster issue: I had no effin idea how to deal with it on my first playthrough. I think I discovered that you could hurt it by throwing things at it (while weapons bounced off, throwing a helmet got a spot of blood). I would run in and out of the cave, periodically healing/camping as necessary. And then one time… he was gone. ‘He must have ran away’, I thought, and proceeded merrily into the mine. Only to find it was infested with these weird gross flying tapeworms. Still, they were an improvement on the goo monster.

            Later I found out you can use a special item to kill the goo monster in like 2 hits. Sigh.

        • http://gameological.com/author/mattkodner/ Matt Kodner

          @baneofpigs:disqus 

          it’s that damned green skull. and of course in the white tower you also need the green swords (which I had ditched ages ago) to swing at the ghosts. 

          tricky game!

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/mattman-begins,89632 Mattman Begins

      Yeah, Sierra had a real craze for building the copyright protection into their games during this period, and in a not-especially intuitive way.  Space Quest IV called for a series of hieroglyphics consisting of bars and fatter bars to be hastily entered into one of the Time Pods during an escape from Time Cops, and I remember cursing and scrambling for the manual, only to be slowed down by the similar appearances of many of the symbols, and then be dead with Gary Owens sneering some pro-DRM joke at me.  Not as exasperating as the black-on-eyesore-red hieroglyphics in the Zack McKracken And The Alien Mindbenders manual, but still. 

      SQV involved planning a galactic route with a manual-bound star chart, which at least had the whimsy of Roger setting a course for planet “Gingivitis” at one point.  Still, though I appreciated Sierra’s efforts to spice up the DRM process, I would intone after the second or third go-round of these manual-flipping jaunts, “I do not like this; I will never like this; please find a different way to feel secure that you’re paying your damn bills.”

      • Todd VanDerWerff

        Figuring out that the various planets’ codes were in the background of some bullshit feature in the game’s tabloid-esque manual was the hardest puzzle for me in Space Quest V.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          YOU ALL ARE  TEARING ME APART.

          Just wait until they get creative digital menus now that that’s the only way things can be.  Remember early DVD menus with hidden codes and weird, highlighted visual items.  Yeah, enjoy your Kojima puzzles getting buried in those things when you’re just trying to hit a checkpoint before going to bed.

    • sam area

      My fam got a 286 many years ago and I mainly used it to play Sierra games (Kings Quest, Space Quest, etc. also Indy).  Friends of ours also had a PC (a 386!). We would share the install discs of these games because the were fun, obviously, and difficult to complete in the time we were together.  I remember one day, while us kids were bowling, our Moms transcribed one of those copy protection cheat sheets that had to be viewed through a red film onto a legal pad! Pages of the stuff…Thanks Moms!

    • http://twitter.com/zhandlen Zack Handlen

      When I was a kid, my dad scored a bootleg copy of The Adventures Of Willy Beamish from somebody he knew at work; the game played fine right up until Willy’s babysitter turns into a vampire bat, and then I couldn’t figure out what to do next. This was before Internet FAQs and what-not, so while I knew the vacuum cleaner was part of the solution–presumably, you were supposed to suck the bat into the machine–I could never get it to work right. So eventually I just decided it was secret DRM to screw with anyone who pirated the game. I had no verification of this one way or the other, but it made me feel better about myself, and it also made sure I never bothered to play the game again. (I also remember playing The Dark Half adventure game, and that fucker crashed like crazy. Although I owned that outright, so I couldn’t blame the crashing on DRM woes.)

      • http://sarapen.ca/ Sarapen

        No, I also got stuck on that one on a legit copy, I forget the exact sequence but I remember the solution wasn’t too intuitive. I think you used the hair spray on the bat at some point?

        • http://twitter.com/zhandlen Zack Handlen

          shutupshutupshutup it was the game it wasn’t me the game *runs off sobbing*

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=663669914 Sean Richardson

        You need the hair spray and the pet mouse.  Mouse = bait, you spray the bat to slow it down, and you vacuum it up when it comes in for the mouse.

    • Everlasting_Godstabber

      I installed a friend’s copy of KQ 4, which would ask you to look up the Xth word on page Y of the manual when you started the game. After having to give back the manual, I would sit there for an hour at a time trying to remember what words I had entered before and guessing what the password would be.

      I am almost positive I had a better chance of guessing the password than solving some of the puzzles in game.

    • stuartsaysstop

      Yeah, my first PC included a copy of King’s Quest VI sans manual (just a jewel case), and thus my first encounter with an adventure game was also my first with DRM frustration. Still not sure how I actually got past that part, maybe I called Sierra or something.

    • japanesebrucewillis

       Sierra games generally seemed built to require said guides, DRM aside. Didn’t make them less awesome though.

      • Fluka

        Hey, no disagreement here – they were the defining games of my childhood!  They just…well, they were also just excellent teaching tools to show that life is suffering.

    • Vermes

      See also: King’s Quest III, which is essentially just a copyright protection system masquerading as a game. Most puzzles in the game are solved by casting spells, which require ingredients put together in combinations and via methods outlined in the manual. This means that nearly every puzzle in the awful game has you sitting frustrated with the manual in your lap.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    I installed a friend’s copy of Bane of the Cosmic Forge on my pc in High School.  It had the manual-based DRM where a game prompt would ask you which colored pictograph would show up on which page.
       He never lent me the manual and I only had one combination memorized, so I’d just sit and Listen to Duty Now For The Future on the tape deck while repeatedly plugging in the same combination until I randomly got it right, or I got fed up and did something else.
       Why didn’t I just photocopy the book?  Was I dumb?  Yeah, I was dumb.

    • NakedSnake

       That game was amazing and difficult. Was it possible to save? I’m pretty sure I concluded that saving was impossible. What I remember most was spending a lot of time in character creation, wandering off to some new, exotic part of the castle, and then dying. As far as I was concerned it was a roguelike.

  • vinnybushes

    The most ludicrously complex copy protection I ever encountered was with my Mac OS copy of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? The game came with a paperback encyclopedia and when reaching certain milestones within the game you had to turn to a specific page of the encyclopedia and enter a specific word on a specific line of an article. The encyclopedia was about six to seven inches thick, and when I downloaded a copy designed to run on a modern computer years later I had to dig it up again. If you want to play it and had never owned it, you would have to own a perfect scan of that exact encyclopedia.

    • Enkidum

      Holy shit, I remember that! Why do I remember that? I never owned the game. Must be in junior high in France where we spent as much of our time playing games as possible.

      • vinnybushes

         It should be noted that game was about the unfriendliest piece of educational software ever created. I consider myself a history nerd and as an adult I’ve encountered clues later in the game that would give a historian pause.

    • caspiancomic

       Oh man, I think I played this game back in the day! I was only a wee kiddie-wid, so I mostly just warped backwards and forwards in time looking at the artwork and occasionally encountering shady looking badguys.

      This game, right? I don’t even remember it having an encyclopedia, but then again I was definitely not playing it right.

      • vinnybushes

        obviously the pc and mac versions were probably the only ones with copy protection, but yeah. This was the encyclopedia (or at least as close to the one as I can find) and yes it says 13,000 entries. http://i2.listal.com/image/1564912/600full-desk-encyclopedia,-the-new-american-%28signet%29-cover.jpg

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=663669914 Sean Richardson

          I have had that encyclopedia for so long that I forgot that it came with Carmen San Diego.

        • http://warren-peace.blogspot.com/ WarrenPeace

          Whoa, that picture brings back memories.

        • stuartsaysstop

          oh shit ALL the memories

    • NakedSnake

      Oh my god. At one point I was digging through my old stuff and was delighted to find a couple of ancient Carmen Sandiego 5 1/4 in floppy disks. I was pretty excited because I actually have an old computer that would run these artifacts of a long-expired age. I played the game for about 10 minutes before encountering the copy protection. Not having the manual, I just guessed a couple of times, getting it wrong each time. Then the game did a weird, controlled crash. I had to restart my computer, and when I tried to boot the game again, I found out that the disks were clean. The copy protection was so brutal that it actually deleted everything if you answered their questions wrong. It was a brutal result, especially considering that it had been 15 years since I – and probably anyone – had used one of those old floppy disks.

    • O Superman

      Yeah, we had some Carmen Sandiego games at my elementary school where you needed the encyclopedia to progress, and of course they didn’t have one of these specific encyclopedias in every room, so my classmates and I would just guess. I don’t think we were ever successful.

      “Try ‘the.’”
      “It wasn’t ‘the.’”
      “Try ‘and.’”
      “Nope, it wasn’t ‘and’ either.”

    • George_Liquor

       The original Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego had the same copy protection. It came bundled with a copy The World Almanac, and you had to type in a specific word from it to start the game.

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    Wasteland had great copy protection.  It came with a booklet called “Paragraphs” which, in addition to a lot of the story and dialogue in the game, also had passwords that were required for many areas.

    It also hilariously had several false storylines mixed in, so if you just read the Paragraphs trying to figure out what was going on, you could get severely mixed up.  (If I recall, a minor character was involved in some sort of alien invasion in one of the fake stories.)

    • EmperorSeth

      The old “Gold Box” games like Pools of Radiance had the same thing. They even little maps of, say, a dragon’s lair that was never in the game.

    • TearyEnnui

      It was a pretty common thing with ZX Spectrum games, which could be copied by anyone with a stereo with two tape slots. Every game came with large manuals, or an accompanying novella, and on loading, you were asked for the “word x on page y, line z”.

      Such copy-protection was easily countered by a device known as “your Dad’s office photocopier”.

  • Flying_Turtle

    Made the mistake of viewing the immortal scorpion thing before bedtime. Thanks for the nightmares!

  • Fist Beefchest

    Ultima VII: Serpent Isle had a good one. At the start, an in-game character asked you questions from the manual, and if you got them wrong you could keep playing but all the other characters would speak in nothing but randomised gibberish like “There is no flagpole for thee today, little platypus. Only death.” and “My pod-people are harvesting explicitly”. Given the game’s reliance on dialogue, this made progress difficult.

  • fieldafar

    I once came across this screen when I was playing Donkey Kong Country 3, even though I wasn’t even trying to copy it.

    • ItsTheShadsy

      Oh my god, those screens are the most terrifying thing on earth. I’m sure everyone has one good nightmare from them.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

        It’s funny how when you’re younger, little mindless game dev decisions can be completely terrifying. Hell, I used to be scared shitless pausing the original Battletoads due to the repetitive “thum-thum-thum-tshtshtsh” music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhl9pJB-2Ak

        • O Superman

          My dad used to play the 7th Guest when I was 7 or 8 and I would freak out every time Faust screamed “COME BACK!!!” He had borrowed the game from someone and I was so relieved when he returned it that I think I actually cried when he went out and bought it for himself.

        • ItsTheShadsy

          To be fair, copyright infringement and error screens still freak me out a little bit. Even things like when a PlayStation would hang in the middle of reading discs.

          But yeah, it’s hilarious when little things would be horrifying. Back in the day when I first played StarTropics, the hole in the upper-right corner of this map drove me to Lovecraftian insanity.

  • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

    Lure of the Temptress had a particularly diabolical form of copy protection. If you bypassed the DRM, then a particularly frustrating puzzle would become unsolvable. 

  • TearyEnnui

    This article has given me flashbacks to the fist-chewing frustration of Elite’s Lenslok system, the worst copy-protection ever.

    • Eco1970

      I was going to post about this too lol. Jesus thT was awful. :)

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    I still think the best physical DRM  is from Douglas Adams’s Bureaucracy. It included an application form for a “Better Beezer Card,” which was one of those carbon-copy white/yellow/pink triplicate forms – but each sheet actually had different text on it, so for instance, if you ticked a box listing an auto as an “asset” you owned, you would also be electing to gift that auto to the company on the carbon sheet below. The questions and stuff were referred to in the game, which is how it functioned as DRM.

  • Eco1970

    I think this sort of thing happens less often when you use Steam every day, or when it’s on in the background while you do other stuff. I know that bandwidth is an issue for people, ut I havenMt noticed any stuff like this happening since I got a really fast conne tion.

    I understand that not everyone can do this htough

  • Cloks

    You forgot the best one. In Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen, if you board the SS Anne with a pirated and poorly hacked .rom, the sailor checking tickets will tell you “By the way: if you like this game, buy it or die.” None of the games that you mentioned went so far as to threaten the pirate with their own death.

    • Nom_de_Suck

      This is actually not true. It’s something that’s been spread around the internet but the message appears nowhere in the game ROM.

      For more examples, please look here: http://tcrf.net/Category:Anti-Piracy

  • ItsTheShadsy

    The DOS game Stunts has a good one. If you fail the instruction manual check, your car abruptly stops in the middle of the game with the warning that you forgot to disable the car’s anti-theft protection. Simple, but realistic enough that it probably made people think they forgot something rather than it being piracy-related.

    • Melancholic_Rodeo_Clown

      That game was my first thought when I read this article. Like someone above, we had been told two answers to the questions and would just keep rebooting till we got those.

      I miss that game, my brother and I used to love making our own impossible racetracks and challenge each other to them – a loop de loop before a corkscrew was a surefire race-ender.

  • https://www.thegamecrafter.com/designers/xyvir-games Xyvir

    When I first saw the image for this article, I could have sworn it said ‘red-herring’ which was an  item you can get in the first game. Only after reading the whole article did I realize what it actually said.

  • duwease

    That Earthbound one comes so close to being the ultimate laugh on pirates, except that it never explicitly lets the person know why it’s doing what it’s doing, so it just seems random.  A quick dialogue message like, “Only the purest of heart can hope to defeat Gygas, not a dirty pirate like you” right before it frags your saved games would have been perfect.

  • Effigy_Power

    While these lists are obviously never exhaustive, I am surprised not to find the “Sam and Max Hit the Road” dressup game copy protection. Having to put a fishbowl on Max’s head, dress him in a tutu and make him hold a speargun, just to start the game, was pretty fun, even if it meant needing the handbook nearby.
    “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis”, which was obsessed with ingame puzzles of rotating stone discs, used its ingame puzzles also as start-up copy protection by inquiring to certain combinations depicted in the margins of the handbook.

    While these things are a bit inconvenient and with current methods really easy to overcome (host online PDF anyone?), they are still slightly less annoying than a DRM that works actively to piss you off… I am talking to you, UPlay and Windows Live for Games. I understand what you’re trying to do, I really do. There is nothing sinister or petty about wanting to protect your property and making sure people pay for what they use, there really isn’t. But we all know that all but the greenest of internet users can crack just about any game within minutes, especially since google doesn’t filter out results for cracks. Online Activation has become so tedious in some games that the cracked files are sometimes easier to install than the game itself.
    All that considering, it all beats the period of games requiring the CD in the drive. I play a lot of games on rotations and change quickly between them. If I had to constantly change discs I would either have a lot of No-CD cracks or just not bother sometimes (talk about first world problems…). Luckily the game-makers realized that that isn’t the way to go, especially since No-CD cracks are demonstrably easy to make.
    But even with all things considered, DRM probably isn’t the last and final word on anti-piracy measures. We have to remain vigilant that the protection of copyrighted material by corporations doesn’t slowly start to intrude into our personal lives, such as what is rumored with the new XBOX and it’s always-on Kinect… Corporate investment shouldn’t beat out the right to privacy, even though I believe it probably already does.
    In the end piracy will persist. Some people simply will continue out of some drastically misplaced sense of rebellion, some out of entitlement regardless of financial means. But I am pretty sure that a lot of people pirate simply because buying a game sight unseen is pretty risky. $60 is a hefty amount of money… I mean, you could buy two of those handheld Wikipedia devices for that sum. I’d wager that games like Torchlight are pirated a lot less than the Battlefield series, percentage-wise. Maybe think what you are charging for your games and lower the price a bit. It seems to have worked for the music industry. Since I can download individual songs and so on, I have pretty much ceased pirating music.
    $60 is a lot of money, even if the game is good, which often it’s not. Maybe consider than too, game makers.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      It’s been so long since I played the floppy disk version of “Sam and Max”, I forgot that existed. (And “Monkey Island” is pretty representative of a decade’s worth of tedious copy protection.)

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       At the time, requiring the CD in the tray didn’t bother me, as I was coming over from console games that required the cartridge be in the system to run the game (and in those early days, a CD’s content would eat up most of your hard drive).

      But more recently, that stuff gets annoying. And in some circumstances not really practicable.

      In the preschool I worked at, a parent donated a bunch of the old Ron Gilbert SCUMM-based kid adventures (Putt-Putt, etc.), but their default installation mode required the kids to constantly be swapping CDs in and out of the tray with their sticky fingers – or asking an adult to do so, impinging on their independence and agency. I wound up manually copying folders and editing .ini files and shit to get the games to work off the HD (I may have even resorted to downloading an abandonware version of one of the games to get it up and running). Luckily they were old enough that that kind of fiddling was straightforward and pretty easy (though I doubt any of the other Preschool teachers in the building would have had the background to do that).

    • George_Liquor

      Speaking of cracked, I really miss “Cracked By” intros. In particular, the Commodore 64 had some pretty epic ones which at times overshadowed the games themselves.

      • NakedSnake

         I totally forgot about those. That’s awesome that they put them in. They fit seamlessly in with shitloads of other videos from (1) the developer, (2) the publisher, (3) NVIDIA, and (4) some other bullshit.

  • NakedSnake

    Anyone remember Escape Velocity: Override and Escape Velocity: Nova, where Cap’n Hector, a prominent parrot pilot, would bug you, steal your money, and eventually attack you if you didn’t register your shareware? He was brutal.

  • Basement Boy

    As for the “feelies” that used to be included, I remember the Infocom text adventure “Leather Goddesses of Phobos” was packaged with a (basically useless) scratch ‘n’ sniff card, as well as a short “Lane Mastodon” comic book which included the special secret sequence of hopping, clapping and saying “kweepa” you needed to get through an otherwise impossible (and still really fucking difficult even with the “directions”) maze.

    P.S. I am old.

  • SketchyTK

    The LucasArts feelies were a fun way to start every game. I may still have my Monkey Island feelie wheels; covered in codes and hints on how to solve the maps. I also remember ordering the cheat guides to get through both games. 

  • http://mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com/ Mr. Glitch

    I don’t know if it was intended as such, but StarTropics had a pretty clever anti-piracy method. About half-way into the game, your character Mike learns his uncle’s dying words were “Evil aliens from a distant planet…. Tell Mike to dip my letter in water”. This message referred to an physical piece of paper bundled with the game that revealed a letter and a secret code when submerged in water. When StarTropics was released on the Wii’s Virtual Console, Nintendo included a virtual letter and a virtual bucket to dunk it in.

  • Ned Leavitt

    Star Tropics: DRM, or just a gimmick?

    • http://mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com/ Mr. Glitch

      Yes.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

        I don’t know whether I’m happier with this response or whoever pulled not LovePlus or New LovePlus, but LovePlus+.  Nice feature.

  • Matthew Vose

    I had a copy of Sim City in the early 90′s that had a list of codes against phrases, and prompted you to enter it before starting the game. If you didn’t you’d be hit by a catastrophe about every 2 minutes.

    I wish I hadn’t lost that list of codes about 2 weeks after getting the game. *sob*

    • Fluka

      Yeah, 90s physical DRM ended up punishing less pirates, and more just people who just had poor home office organization skills.

      • NakedSnake

        Sometimes, those people need the most punishment.

      • NakedSnake

         Sierra: Fostering home office organization skills since good filing skills since 1979!

    • Melancholic_Rodeo_Clown

      ha, the original SimCity was the one where you could get more money by typing ‘FUND’ but it would give you an earthquake if you did it too many times, right? 8 year-old me was so proud of himself when he realised you could just type it as many times as you wanted before you started building and the earthquake wouldn’t do anything.

  • http://profiles.google.com/vulpisfoxfire Christopher Forsyth

    Of course some of these methods backfire if they don’t get the word out fast enough that it *is* a copy-protection scheme, rather than just a broken program–there’s been a couple of cases where sales have been hurt *more* as a result.
    Especially in the cases of false positives, I’m surprised people haven’t been complaining that the ‘DRM scheme’ thing is just an excuse to cover up bad product.

    That said, the tech-geek in me approves of the style and creativity shown in these gimmicks–though it’s a shame they didn’t apply that creativity more to the games they’re trying to protect in the first place…

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    I always enjoyed reading the old “paragraph books,” especially because they would include some really crazy fake (as in, not actually used in the game) paragraphs just to throw people off.  I remember in Interplay’s LOTR paragraph book there was a passage that basically insinuated that under those robes, at least one of the Istari was a cross-dresser. 

  • cengime

    A story posted by Bruce Webster to Slashdot ( http://games.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3698887&cid=43581407 ):

    In Sundog: Frozen Legacy (Apple II, 1984), we had a fairly robust, multi-level copy protection method. However, many of the ‘cracking’ tools out at the time would actually produce a runnable copy of the game — it was just that the game wouldn’t pass its final internal DRM check. In the game, including in ‘cracked’ versions, you started out on the surface of a given planet (Jondd); you could drive around the planet’s surface, walk around the cities, go into stores, buy and sell goods, etc. But when you attempted to lift off into space, if that final DRM check failed, you’d get the message “Clearance to lift denied due to pirate activity” and you would be unable to take off and travel to any other world or system. (Note that you’d never see that message in a legitimate copy of the game.)

    Now, the game actually had space pirates who would attack your ship, so a lot of people didn’t realize just what the message meant. We would get occasional phone calls from customers asking what they were doing wrong and how they could get clearance. We’d listen for a minute, then say, “Well, just mail us your Sundog floppy disk, and we’ll send out a new one for free.” Heh. On the other hand, we had at least one person call us up on the phone and say, “Yeah, I get it” and then order a legit copy.

    Note that for those customers who did buy an actual copy of the game, if they sent in $10 along with their registration card, they’d get another Sundog floppy disk — that is, a second complete copy of the game, which they could keep as a backup or give away (or, frankly, sell). Also, if anyone actually did have a legit Sundog floppy that died or was otherwise damaged, we’d exchange it for a new one for free.

    Sundog (Apple II) was on Hardcore Computing’s “Top 10 Wanted” list (for a cracked version) for quite some time. It was eventually cracked, but I believe it took a year or two. You can find runnable Apple II disk images (for Apple II emulators) online.

    I really don’t know what copy protection was in place for the Atari ST port of Sundog, since that happened after I left FTL Games. ..bruce..

  • real nigga

    i think of pirating computer games as being reparations for slavery.

  • Zach Raymond

    Pokemon Black and White disabled XP gains if you pirated it.

  • Dylan Ward

    I Love Steam..Im 19 years old and occasionally pirate games….just to try them out…cuz most of these companies dont have a fuckin demo for us to try out. and even if they do give us a demo..it turns out that in some cases, the demo is way better than the actual game. I would love it if these game devs put hilarious codes in games for us to get a laugh or two on pirated copys. the crysis warhead one would be an awsome cheat or glitch to unlock..i still laugh everytime i see it. The ONE thing that i hate about steam now (I wasnt on steam for a while) is that you HAVE to buy a game in order to add friends. but thats minor cuz people have found a way to bypass it. Id rather get most games now on consoles than pc cuz i dont have the best rig, but its able to run Turok (2008), 007 quantum of solice with the occasional lag, and so on and so forth. thats all i have to say.

  • Alex Leinbach

    Help! I got falsely accused of copyright infringement by steam, i never posted anything and i was doing a paper for english at the time. I dont know if this claim by them was BS, but i might be sued for nothing :-(