This has to be the story of the year. The scummiest of scumware manufacturers, Starforce (read up on them here) decided that it would be an excellent idea to show just how effective their malware anti-piracy protection was by posting a link to a site where people could download a pirated copy of Galactic Civilizations II, a game unencumbered with their technology. It’s of course completely irrelevant that any of the Starforce games are also available for download if you’re so inclined.

I’m going to use this to segue into a related issue: why on Earth do they insist on putting the same ridiculously over-zealous copy protection in game after game, when the only people it affects are those who actually care enough to drop £40 on a game? Starforce in particular is downright insidious, installing secret drivers, blocking blacklisted software, causing system instability, and sticking around when the game is uninstalled. It might be different if it actually prevented the games from being pirated, but I searched for Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory on one of the biggest sites and several copies came up, complete with Starforce bypassed.

Now I’m not advocating dropping any kind of protection because it’s unfortunately needed – Max Payne 2 had nothing more than a CD key and got pirated to hell because no online play meant a unique key wasn’t needed – but the basics like SafeDisc stop casual copying which is the best they can hope for without hardware protection. Those are pretty unobtrusive and aren’t going to stop the hardcore piraters, but nothing is for now.

The thing that really gets me is that I, as someone who buys the games/movies/albums that I want, am the one who ends up suffering from it. I’m sure people remember the Sony rootkit disaster, which did absolutely nothing to stop MP3s appearing in hours and ended up crippling legitimate users’ systems. That means the pirates got perfect copies without restrictions while buyers who had the audacity to stick the disc in their PC ended up with some pretty nasty software indeed, without even being asked about it. It’s similar to why I don’t like iTunes – I wouldn’t pirate a 128kbps audio file, let alone pay 79p for one with restrictions.

In an ideal world they wouldn’t need any protection because people would buy the stuff that they wanted, but this isn’t a utopia and unfortunately there are people who refuse to pay for any of their media. While I support the publishers in their attempts to protect their IP and think pirates are scum, they need to take the moral high ground and stop pulling this shit on their legitimate customers.

7 thoughts on “St-arrr!-force”

  1. As an old Chinese proverb says “A lock only ever stopped an honest man”. Perhaps once the games industry takes the first step in bringing down prices, their audience will broaden, games won’t be worth copying or reselling, and more importantly we won’t have to think twice before spending near enough £40 of our hard earned cash – enabling far more impulse purchases, and winners amongst game studios. Sorry gone off on a tangent there :o)

  2. The only thing we need copy protection for is to prevent casual copying you’re not going to be able to stop anything else.

  3. the pirates always win!!!! like the guy said above me you cant stop the hardcore!! law abiding citizens need not to be punished!

  4. How quaint is that!? You have to love the 80s…the music! The fashion! The cars! The hair! The technology! The smoking! Games in Boots!

    Seriously, it was very interesting. Not only does it provide a look at how much development has changed, tying things neatly into the latest post, but it also brought up some nice facts like the average game price of £6.

  5. Still on the subject of Starforce, everyone should read the statement from the developers of Galactic Civilizations II. Can you believe it? A developer who understands copy protection!? I’m now tempted to buy the game on principle.

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