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It's funny.  Laugh. Piracy Games

Vuvuzelas Blare On Pirated Copies of Music Game 320

Posted by Soulskill
from the zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from Wired: "A novel anti-piracy measure baked into the Nintendo DS version of Michael Jackson: The Experience makes copied versions of the game unplayable and taunts gamers with the blaring sound of vuvuzelas. Many games have installed switches that detect pirated copies and act accordingly, like ending the user's game after 20 minutes. Ubisoft has come under fire multiple times for what players have seen as highly restrictive anti-piracy measures that annoy legitimate users as much or more so than pirates. But some more-mischievous developers have used tricks similar to the vuvuzela fanfare to mess with pirates. Batman: Arkham Asylum lets unauthorized users play through the game as if it were a normal copy, with a single exception: Batman's cape-glide ability doesn't work, rendering the game impossible to finish — although you might bash your head against it trying to make what are now impossible jumps. If you pirate Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, brace yourself for an explosion, as your entire base will detonate within 30 seconds of loading the game."
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Vuvuzelas Blare On Pirated Copies of Music Game

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  • by plover (150551) * on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:10PM (#34468404) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, people would copy a game playing Michael Jackson? Seems like the vuvuzelas are redundant.

    • by cashman73 (855518) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:13PM (#34468450) Journal
      I would think that with such a game, the copy protection used would be that every time it's loaded, part of the game would disappear. Kind of like what happened to Michael's face every time he had plastic surgery. But then again, that may not be actual copy protection -- it seems to me that it would enhance the "Michael Jackson experience",. . .
      • by Cryacin (657549)
        "You been hit by... You been struck by... a smooth criminal!"
        • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @11:29PM (#34469936) Journal

          More like you've been struck by...a total idiot. While this particular "trick" is obvious to anyone NOT what the real game is supposed to be like, one of the things that helped to kill the developers of Titan's Quest on the PC was their frankly insane copy protection. It would make a "pirated" game glitch, skip, and be all around unplayable for any length of time, but of course word quickly got out that "The game is a buggy POS" and people avoided it like the clap. It didn't help that the developers were so damned paranoid that ANYONE that complained of a bug was automatically labeled a pirate by them.

          It is a damned shame I didn't somehow save the chatboard because me and one of the developers got into a nasty argument over that, with me going so far as to show him a pic of the game box sitting on top of my local paper with the date visible and he STILL accused me of being a pirate, saying I must have photoshopped the thing in the under 15 minutes it took me to take the pic and upload. Needless to say the next pic I uploaded was one of me chunking the POS game in the garbage, along with a promise to slam the game wherever it was being sold online (which I did).

          So they really have to be careful with the anti-piracy crap, and they ought to give us something in return for putting up with their shit. Personally I think there ought to be a rule that after 2 years or the developer stops pushing patches, whichever comes first, a DRM removal patch should HAVE TO be released. That way those of us that buy our game fair and square don't end up having to hunt for cracks because their &^$%&^%$&$ DRM doesn't work on modern systems, or even worse have our new machine shit itself and die because their ring 0 crap is designed for x86 and we've moved on to X64.

          A FINAL WORD OF WARNING...ALWAYS be sure to back up your machine BEFORE installing any older game on X64!!! Because I have found out the hard way that there are certain version of Starforce, safedisc, and SecuROM that will happily install on X64 but WILL NOT UNINSTALL, even with their supposed removal tools, and will cause all kinds of hell on your system! We are talking inability to hibernate or shutdown properly, random glitches, screwed up burns on your drives, it is a mess and the ONLY way I've found to fix it is to either boot into a second OS and remove the files, followed by a safe mode reg cleaning, or a full wipe and reinstall. Frankly I don't see why those damned Ring 0 DRM creators can't be busted just like malware writers, because they sure as hell can cause just as big a mess. Oh and be careful if you have both Starforce and either Safedisc or SecuROM, because certain versions will NOT play nice with each other and cause system instability! It is sad that it has gotten to the point that I just get a pirate version of my older games rather than using the discs, simply because the pirate version is less likely to mess up my X64 install.

    • by danwiz (538108)
      Won't someone please .... think of the children!
    • by _KiTA_ (241027)

      Seriously, people would copy a game playing Michael Jackson? Seems like the vuvuzelas are redundant.

      They will now, just to see the Vuvuzela meme -- thus giving them a great piracy figure to justify even worse things down the line.

    • Michael Jackson's Moonwalker is one of my favorite old-school games. Dancing your enemies to death and transforming into a robot to save captured children from overtly sexual enemies. It's such a ridiculous game that it can be a lot of hilarious fun to play with friends.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        A game where Michael Jackson saves captures children from overtly sexual enemies... doesn't this strike you as just a little bit ironic?

  • butbutbutbutbut (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dwebtron (821134) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:11PM (#34468416)
    if they can tell it's pirated... why all the crazy piracy schemes in the first place? Why even LAUNCH the game? how can they tell?
    • Re:butbutbutbutbut (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:13PM (#34468448)

      It turns it into a demo, which could lead to an actual game purchase.

      • by Khyber (864651)

        Real demos led to actual game purchases. That is how shareware worked back int he 90s.

        Now? Demos lead to consistent monthly rip-offs of money.

        And people wonder why the industry is said to be dying?

        • Now? Demos lead to consistent monthly rip-offs of money.

          You're paying a monthly fee for demos? I think you're doing it wrong.

    • Re:butbutbutbutbut (Score:5, Informative)

      by iamhassi (659463) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:37PM (#34468670) Journal
      Because if it doesn't work the pirates will continue to work at it until it does work. This way the pirates believe the game is working properly and they disrupt it.

      Believe it or not, most pirates don't sit there and play through the games they just cracked. The ones that do the pirating usually do it so they can disrupt it with their name attached saying "We're the first to hack XYZ". This is why Razor 1911 has a wiki page, because they're so damn famous. [wikipedia.org]
    • Because it takes longer for the crackers to figure out if they're "done" or not. There have been things like purposeful crash bugs that lead to multiple releases and such of cracked titles. Anything that keeps an uncracked version out of pirates hands theoretically extends sales, as the sales aren't competing with a free version.

      • Re:butbutbutbutbut (Score:5, Insightful)

        by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Monday December 06, 2010 @09:38PM (#34469148) Homepage

        I see two problems with this kind of approach though

        1: the code may get triggered by accident leading to a legitimate user getting frustrated at the games apparent buginess/uncompletability.
        2: pirates may not realise that the problems they are experiencing are a result of antipiracy meausres.

        Either way you have users who think the game is buggy as hell telling their friends to avoid it.

        • Re:butbutbutbutbut (Score:4, Insightful)

          by xtracto (837672) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @02:45AM (#34470802) Journal

          There is a third option that I see here... and makes me personally affected.

          See, each DS game is a big piece of plastic. If I want to take my DS complete game collection with me in each trip, I would need to carry all of them in a big bag.

          By format-shifting said games I bought, I am able to take just ONE cart inside the DS and have access to all the games I and my wife like.

          So, for me, buying a game that is "uncrackable" is a no go, because it means to play that game I would need to take the piece of plastic with me wherever I go.

        • by Waccoon (1186667)

          pirates may not realise that the problems they are experiencing are a result of antipiracy meausres.

          They might as well. If a game dumped me to the desktop with no error message within the first 30 seconds, I automatically assumed the copy protection on my legally purchased game failed. First thing to do was get a NoCD crack and retry. Almost every time, that fixed the problem right away.

          If I get an error message, then I assume it's a hardware compatibility bug or some other kind of glitch.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by The MAZZTer (911996)
      Because the point of the crazy schemes is that they CAN'T tell, at least not until the copy the pirate THOUGHT was fully cracked has been widely disseminated. Users who download it will be fed up with the glitches and buy the full game to fix them, in theory.
    • by moxsam (917470)
      It's (slightly) harder to detect by crackers when there are multiple checks, one of them hidden deep inside the game play. The idea behind it is that the publisher bets on the crackers not playing the game long enough to notice the second copy protection.
    • Re:butbutbutbutbut (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nursie (632944) on Monday December 06, 2010 @10:11PM (#34469442)

      For the lulz?

      About 15 years ago a friend of mine had a game called "Settlers 2". Pretty standard RTS in a medieval/fantasy setting IIRC, quite cute.

      The CD it came on had visible pattern burned into it that would screw up reading the disc very easily. Using various blind copiers I managed to get a decent iso image off it. Of course the burn patterns weren't just to stop you reading it....

      If the game code did not detect the burn patterns in the CD it was running from it was very clever. Tricksy.

      In the game you had an economy based on a few things, one of which was iron. Another was pork. You needed farms to get pigs, and an abattoir to turn that into ham. The ham was then used as food for the settlers. Specifically the miners. They ate ham then went mining for iron ore, and the foundry turned out iron which you could then turn into weapons and other soldier equipment.

      After about half an hour of playing I tried to figure out why I had no army. After a lot of squinting it turned out that the iron was coming out of the mines and being carried to the foundry, which was producing.... pigs.

      I just had to laugh and mentally congratulate the developers for that.

    • if they can tell it's pirated... why all the crazy piracy schemes in the first place? Why even LAUNCH the game? how can they tell?

      Clever logic bombs are harder to circumvent.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Leaving aside the inevitable flamewar about piracy and sales and that endlessly retrodden path of discussion, to interject some technical details: to a cracker they're usually called a 'trap', 'flag' or, if you will, a 'logic bomb'.

      Some of them might be obvious, but of course if they're obvious they'll be found right away. The idea is that by making the traps subtle or to require you to actually play the game to some extent (and essentially playtest it) to uncover them, they'll be harder to track down becau

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Neil Boekend (1854906)

        Ideally, developers would stop putting logic bombs into their code deliberately. It's poor ethics, bad programming practice and can occasionally be incredibly dangerous (especially in non-gaming fields).

        Ideally people would pay for the software they liked. Ideally the filesharing of copyrighted material would only be used as evaluation, followed by deleting the software (after an evaluation period of a week or so) or paying for it. Ideally the distribution of disks would be stupid, because it's cheaper to set a filesharing server to send it over the interwebs.
        The companies have reacted wrong, but the pirates incited the reaction.

  • I've been misled! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:12PM (#34468438)

    "Batman: Arkham Asylum lets unauthorized users play through the game as if it were a normal copy, with a single exception: Batman's cape-glide ability doesn't work, rendering the game impossible to finish — although you might bash your head against it trying to make what are now impossible jumps. If you pirate Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, brace yourself for an explosion, as your entire base will detonate within 30 seconds of loading the game..."

    So how is this different then the purchased, bug-ridden, unfinished versions that are pawned off on us with every release?

  • Anyone know how they detect pirated copies?

    • I'm assuming they intentionally leaked the bugged game to torrent sites, etc.

      • I'm assuming they intentionally leaked the bugged game to torrent sites, etc.

        But that wouldn't be "detection"... (then again it wouldn't exactly be a surprise for a slashdot summary to use a wrong word)

        • And it doesn't need to be. Of course, they can't prosecute anyone who "pirates" the freely disseminated version, but then.. maybe they don't want to prosecute people who obviously like their product and therefore might become customers with a small nudge, and if they displace real pirated copies, then they cut down on piracy either way, although the recipients might still think their copies are, in fact, pirated.

    • Re:Detection (Score:5, Informative)

      by plover (150551) * on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:33PM (#34468630) Homepage Journal

      The same way they always have for the last 30 years. Bury some code that's supposed to toggle some hardware effect in the cartridge or media, check for the side effect, then crap out if it fails.

      Another way is just using attributes of the cartridges against pirates. Copies are often made on read-write media, but legitimate cartridges are read-only. So you have legitimate executable code that says "DO_MUSIC: call PLAY_MUSIC", and you add a statement that says "write to address DO_MUSIC 'call PLAY_VUVUZELA'". A legitimate cartridge can't overwrite the ROM, so it fails, and the call to PLAY_MUSIC remains in place. But on a rewritable cartridge it does overwrite it and zzzzzzzzzzzzzz happens.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The cards emulate the game card and they don't permit writing from the console side. I have an Acekard for my DS so that I don't have to carry carts or my mp3 player while I am using the DS.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          The flash carts do allow writing to the SD card from the DS. There's homebrew that does it. That probably doesn't hold up for whatever memory space they're using to load the ROMs from though. In any case, this will be worked around with a ROM patch in no time.

      • "Vuvuzelas Blare On Pirated Copies of Music Game..."

        Not anymore. Easy enough to make all the game files read-only (just leave the save files alone).

        Thanks, dude(ette).

    • Re:Detection (Score:5, Informative)

      by vux984 (928602) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:36PM (#34468662)

      Copy protection is generally a module that's linked into the system, gets called at start up, does some validation / checksumming / decryption etc. Crackers tend to attack the validation so that it returns 'all good' even when its not. Or they wait until the relevant bits are decrypted and then copy those in and bypass the validation/decryption entirely. ... its more complicated than that, but that's sort of the gist of it.

      Crackers attack the copy protection, and then once its defeated release the cracks/cracked copies.

      This piracy detection is essentially a separate redundant anti-piracy module, with the same sort of detection/validation stuff as the primary one. However it doesn't get activated at start up. It gets activated later, sometimes much later,and instead of throwing up a "not a valid copy" it instead modifies the game rules or parameters slightly.

      The idea is that the crackers won't find it. They are attacking the primary copy protection which inevitibaly falls... but often they are only interested in cracking the game, and being the releaser; they often aren't actually all that interested in playing the game itself. So once the protection appears defeated and they appear to be able to play the game they release.

      However the 2ndary copy protection is still intact, and messes with players who actually try to complete the game.

      Its not really any harder to defeat than the primary copy protection; if anything its usually easier. But since it gets missed its gets to mess with pirate copy players for a few months while it gets identified, defeated, and then new cracks are released. Meanwhile there are now bunches of people running the old cracks who might never figure it out... especially if the impact is subtle.

      The main problem with these copy protections is that like any copy protection, some times it doesn't work and legitmate customers are affected. This can be particularly troubling if the impact is subtle... so they come to think the game is just defective (which I guess it is).

      • by shawb (16347)
        And then next time, the crackers are a bit slower out the gate on the release. Possibly by long enough to beat the game and so forth.

        Of course once the crackers get good at figuring out and bypassing this security, then developers will start using similar secondary DRM that doesn't activate until a couple days past the official release date.
    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Yes, they search through slashdot posts for people asking "how they detect pirated copies?"
    • Re:Detection (Score:5, Informative)

      by TapeCutter (624760) * on Monday December 06, 2010 @09:29PM (#34469074) Journal
      "Anyone know how they detect pirated copies?"

      One very old scheme is to embed a checksum of the code segment inside the binary itself and then check it at runtime. It's not foolproof but it will identify most pirated copies with zero chance of false positives.
      • "Anyone know how they detect pirated copies?"

        One very old scheme is to embed a checksum of the code segment inside the binary itself and then check it at runtime. It's not foolproof but it will identify most pirated copies with zero chance of false positives.

        That would prevent modification, but how does that prevent it from being duplicated?

        • Most pirated software of this nature has been modified to bypass serial number checks, etc. If you can detect any modification to the program, then they cannot do this bypassing without also finding the check-summing code and fixing it also.
  • Red Alert 2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:21PM (#34468532)

    Ah, yes, I remember that. It was always fun to uninstall and reinstall the whole fucking game because the DRM flipped a shit over nothing at all.

    • I never have problems with my games. Just give it about 6 months or so and the copy you get will be bug free, patched and playable. Of course it will be free too boot, as the pirates are the ones who make most games playable. I figure if a company wants me to pay for their game, they will make it worth me paying for it. As long as their games are crappy, full of fail and AIDS and generally released and forgotten, fuck them. I will download a cracked, patched and working pirated version and play it.
    • by Spatial (1235392)

      Happened to me a few times as well. Genuine retail copy on my shelf, real disc in a real CD drive - base explodes. I got bitten by Operation Flashpoint's over-zealous FADE DRM as well.

      • Happened to me a few times as well. Genuine retail copy on my shelf, real disc in a real CD drive - base explodes. I got bitten by Operation Flashpoint's over-zealous FADE DRM as well.

        Legit copies crapping out? that is really lame; luckily I've never had that problem.

        "If you pirate Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, brace yourself for an explosion, as your entire base will detonate within 30 seconds of loading the game"
        I know for a fact that this statement is false.
        I have this friend who had a pirated copy. I....oops, I mean "he"....played it all the time back in the day, and never once had his base explode on him.
        It worked fine, other than the music and videos were all missing.

        • by Cochonou (576531)
          Your friend was just using a good crack that was circumventing this particular copy protection. I remember that back in the times, we used cracks for Red Alert 2 and C&C at LAN parties - that's quite a shame for such good games, but you couldn't really expect everybody to have genuine copies of the games, even if they came with 2 CDs.
          Well, the bottom line is that with many cracks, the exploding base phenomenon was real.
  • by billcopc (196330)

    If the game can detect that it was pirated, the circumvention isn't good enough. These little pranks will fool the 0-day groups, but within hours a "proper" fix will come along, and these childish stunts will have been in vain.

    The thing to remember about warez crackers, is they tend to be more skilled than the people who release the games. Trying to outsmart them is a fallacy.

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday December 06, 2010 @09:07PM (#34468914)

      The thing to remember about warez crackers, is they tend to be more skilled than the people who release the games. Trying to outsmart them is a fallacy.

      Then why don't they try, I dunno, maybe writing their own games instead of leeching off the work of others!

      • Then why don't they try, I dunno, maybe writing their own games instead of leeching off the work of others!

        They aren't necessarily more skilled than game developers in general, they are just more skilled in the area of DRM.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's like asking why a safecracker doesn't manufacture safes.

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Monday December 06, 2010 @09:22PM (#34469008)
      The point of DRM, from the publisher's perspective, isn't to prevent piracy - it's to delay it. Most of the sales will happen within the first week, due to the advertising focus - look at all the huge launches like Halo or Call of Duty, that sell millions in a day. If a game can stay uncracked for a month, the DRM is considered to have done its job exceptionally. If you can make DRM that takes a full day to test, and which would take several attempts to circumvent fully, you can easily delay the piracy of the game long enough that potential pirates instead go out and buy the game.
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Trying to outsmart them is an often plausible argument using false or invalid inference?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by six025 (714064)

      Apologies in advance for being a little confrontational about this topic ...

      The thing to remember about warez crackers, is they tend to be more skilled than the people who release the games. Trying to outsmart them is a fallacy.

      Sorry, but popular meme is utter bollocks. Crackers are (mostly) good at cracking software and while I agree that successful cracking is quite a technical task or challenge, and that not many people are capable of that skill there are at least two very obvious problems with what they do.

      There are plenty of examples of software available that has never been completely cracked - yes, the software works to a point but it's not 100% cr

      • Bad example. A Mac program used by an exceedingly small group of folks, versus games which have a much larger user base.
    • by Catskul (323619)

      Trying to outsmart them is a fallacy.

      I don't think you know what that word means...

    • The thing to remember about warez crackers, is they tend to be more skilled than the people who release the games. Trying to outsmart them is a fallacy

      how did you come to that conclusion? do you think defeating the copy protection is more complex than writing the game itself?

  • Congratulations on unlocking an easter egg that gives you much more challenging games.
  • by russotto (537200) on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:44PM (#34468716) Journal

    The vuvuzela noise isn't a copy-protection technique. It's just that the South African version of the game was the first to be cracked; it's in the legit .za copies as well.

  • Am I the only person outside of South Africa who wasn't annoyed with the sound of vuvuzelas? CBC seemed capable of keeping them low, but audible, in the live mix.

    That said, disabling game functions strikes me as preferable to draconian DRM schemes that end up causing unnecessary frustration for paying players.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)

      Am I the only person outside of South Africa who wasn't annoyed with the sound of vuvuzelas?

      Yes... yes you are!

  • by jimmerz28 (1928616)
    Why someone would pirate, let alone pay for either of these mentioned games kind deserve far worse...Michael Jackson? Cmon... Hopefully they'll start putting porn into "pirated" copies of TV series so I can see some cute British guys doing it in between scenes of Merlin, Dr. Who and Skins.
  • GTA IV (Score:4, Informative)

    by bcmm (768152) on Monday December 06, 2010 @09:05PM (#34468894)

    GTA IV had a copy-protection prank too: the pirated game plays fine until you get in to a car, which then accelerates uncontrolably while handling as if the character has been drinking.

    Pretty funny, but it did bite a lot of legit, paying customers, contributing to the general verdict that the game was much too buggy at release.

    • Numerous people had this exact problem with the OP's example or RA2. My brother got hit with it. We owned the game legit, but what triggered the "everything explodes after 30 seconds" behavior is that the installer *did not* tell you if you mistyped the serial number. This was incredibly easy to do since it had an incredibly long serial number.
  • praiseworthy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dudpixel (1429789) on Monday December 06, 2010 @09:16PM (#34468970)

    Surely if it did some cool undocumented thing in the pirated copy you would be impressed enough to pay for the full version - kind of like a "tip" for a job well done.

    I dont think they should put annoying stuff in the pirated copies, but if it subtely made winning impossible, yet by the end of the game it becomes obvious, then I think credit where credit is due - the developers are really trying to win you over. and a job well done should be rewarded.

    Much better than the stupid "check the internet every time you load the game" piracy prevention techniques. Either its a pirate copy or it isn't. There's no point going after all illegal downloads etc. - just the ones where people were too lazy to go to the shop and pay. Getting the target market right in the first place is half the battle.

    • but if it subtely made winning impossible, yet by the end of the game it becomes obvious, then I think credit where credit is due - the developers are really trying to win you over.

      But then how do you distinguish this from a game that's genuinely difficult, like Tetris The Grand Master 3 [youtube.com] that gets ungodly fast starting around 3:00, and then turns off the lights around 5:00 and you have to beat the game by sense of feel?

      • by yukk (638002)

        But then how do you distinguish this from a game that's genuinely difficult, like Tetris The Grand Master 3 [youtube.com] that gets ungodly fast starting around 3:00, and then turns off the lights around 5:00 and you have to beat the game by sense of feel?

        Not by sense of smell ?

  • EarthBound (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @09:24PM (#34469030)

    The old school RPG EarthBound for the SNES had a similar, albeit HORRIFYING copy protection mechanic.

    If the anti-piracy measures flagged, it would jack up the encounter rate twentyfold--the game would literally be swarming with monsters.

    Worst part: if you make it all the way through to the final boss, after his first form the game will lock--the only way out is to reset it, only to find that every single one of your save files have been erased. Starmen.net has an entire page dedicated to this at http://starmen.net/mother2/gameinfo/antipiracy/ .

  • Great marketing? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TimTucker (982832) on Monday December 06, 2010 @10:30PM (#34469574) Homepage
    In other news, developers come up with a great way to drum up press for a game that otherwise no one would have paid any attention to.
  • by Marurun (1938210) on Monday December 06, 2010 @10:35PM (#34469626)
    Generally will fix whatever anti-piracy gimmicks they impliment. The same thing was done to Chrono Trigger on the DS where when you made it to the first time warp it would repeat that scene infinitely. As soon as somebody found out the trigger for what makes it repeat that they released the cheat codes to put onto your cart and you could play the game just fine.
  • Old school trick (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday December 06, 2010 @11:20PM (#34469884)

    I found one of these when I was a teenager. Freaking subtle. Brilliant.

    Steve Jackson's OGRE, for the Commodore 64.

    I bought it. And did what any good geek would do. Made a backup and played that. And I could never beat it. But I did eventually screw up that disc - the old 5 1/4 discs did mess up fairly often. Especially in the 1541 drive.

    So I played the original. And beat it. Made another backup. Couldn't beat it. A light went off.

    I did a statistical analysis. All I did was fire at treads for several games. They're supposed to be hit 33% of the time regardless of weapon or circumstance. On the backup copy, it was close to 17%. On the original copy about 33%.

    They built a single column shift into the game if it detects its a copy.

    EVIL.

    Especially seeing as how - wait for it - I was a paying customer. Thanks guys.

    On the plus side, I did get really good at that game. You had to be playing at a column shift disadvantage.

    • Re:Old school trick (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @01:58AM (#34470612)

      Steve Jackson here, posting as Anonymous Coward. Fnord.

      I had not heard that story, but it could be true. Origin was under no obligation to discuss copy protection stunts with me, so "I didn't know" /= "It didn't happen." Still, if this is the first I've heard of it in 20-odd years, it held up pretty well.

      A column shift on the whole CRT would have been trivially easy to detect, as attacks that should hit 1/6 of the time will now hit exactly never. A good player will wind up making some of those 1/6 chance (1 to 2) shots every game, unproductive though they are, just to use up odd bits of firepower. So perhaps, if this is really going on, it is a shift only on tread attacks, or only on attacks with odds of 1 to 1 or better?

      • Re:Old school trick (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday December 07, 2010 @02:30AM (#34470740)

        Steve! So good to hear from you! Been a fan for a long time now. Was just throwing some Illuminati around my table last weekend. The expansion with the artifacts positively rocks. Oh, and we've already got rules for the Zombie Dice drinking game. We have not found players suicidal enough to try it though. Yet.

        Anyways, as to the business at hand, I have no idea as to the rest of the chart. I tested treads only, and this was some 20 odd years ago. It's a fuzzy memory at this point. I do recall playing 3-4 games only firing at treads. Initially the idea was "I'm going to stop this damned thing no matter what." Then I added an illegal number of units. And still couldn't stop a Mark 3. That's when the light bulb kind of went off.

        Played 3 or 4 games (not a great sampling I know) firing only at treads. Counted them up on a piece of grid paper. Number of times fired, number of hits. And came up to about half what you'd expect. That's when I knew the thing was cheating.

        I'll tell you what though. I do have a project in the works. A disassembly of the original C64 Ogre. It's something I've always wanted to do. The copy protection was obvious - a bad sector read early in the boot. It was obvious. The "gronking" noise a 1541 disk drive makes when it hits something it dislikes is well known. My theory is that if it didn't find the magic bad sector - wham! Bad combat tables. A disassembly would prove this out.

        Perhaps someday I'll do this. It would be wonderfully old school.

        BTW the book included with Ogre where the programmers explain how they programmed the AI is one of the finest programming documents in the universe. It should be a must read for game designers. It really is brilliant. I still have mine, in my original box set. Only thing missing is the radiation badge.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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