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First Person Shooters (Games) Piracy Games

Garry's Mod Catches Pirates the Fun Way 365

Posted by Soulskill
from the discrimination-against-peglegs dept.
UgLyPuNk writes "A few hours ago, Garry Newman – the creator of Garry's Mod – asked, quite innocently, whether anyone was unable to shade polygon normals. He received a few comments, mostly jokes, but a quick look at Google suggests that there are indeed a few people who are experiencing problems with their game. You can hear Newman's chuckling from here — not the normal response to a wide-spread bug report, but this is no normal bug. It seems that the developer has deliberately enabled an error in GMod, which will only affect people who have pirated the game."
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Garry's Mod Catches Pirates the Fun Way

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  • Not a new idea (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:28AM (#35804512)

    Back in the 80's, the developers of a submarine game called Silent Service built in a piracy check that would cause the sailor guy's pants to fly up over his head if your game failed the copy protection. They got quite a few phone calls from baffled pirates.

    • by craznar (710808)

      Kabul Spy for the Apple ][ which at a certain point leaves you in a jail cell with no escape (in the pirated version), but allowed escape if you actually bought it.

    • by crossmr (957846)

      [citation needed]
      as far as I recall from all those years ago, there was no sailor. You spent the game staring out the scope
      I also had a pirated copy of it that worked fine at the time.

    • by Nursie (632944)

      Settlers II in the late 90s subtly broke the game economy if it detected it had been copied, making iron foundries turn iron-ore into pigs instead of pig iron, which were then taken to the butcher and turned into ham. You couldn't make metals so you couldn't raise an army, but everyone was very well fed....

      Took me ages to figure out what was going on, and I LOL'd.

      • Dark Star One also broke the game economy but not so subtly. The simply multiplied the price of all purchases by a fairly large number while not effecting the resale price of said items or the amount of money earned by doing tasks.

        • by wjousts (1529427)
          Really? In my experience (with the GOG.com version of DS1) the economy was broken because your cash maxed out at about 9,999,999 (or something similar, don't remember the exact value) and since there really wasn't anything worth buying anyway...
      • by Xian97 (714198)
        Funny that you mention Settlers 2 (Serf City 2). I remember one of the directories on the US retail discs had a crack for the included SciTech Display Doctor. It seemed that they did a little infringement of their own.
    • Sounds more like something they would've done on Leisure Suit Larry...

      Uh, wait, is it Opposite Day?

  • by poptones (653660) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:33AM (#35804536) Journal

    Here in my car
    Where the image breaks down
    Will you visit me please?
    If I open my door
    In cars

  • Seriously what is the point of this? To flush out pirates on forums? Because if it is to be a sneaky anti-piracy system it is pointless. I have heard about games that detect pirated copies and corrupt saves or don't let you finish the game etc, but what is the point of giving pirates a bizarre error message? Wouldn't "Stop being a douche and support indie developers!" be a better message to display?

    Not that I would ever actually pay for Garry's Mod as it is just a "dev tool" type mod. I don't see any creati

    • by jamesh (87723)

      You could do something like post on the forum "This problem is fixed in version 1.2.3.2. Registered users can download this update for free.". The real version is, and always was, 1.2.3.2, but when pirated it reports 1.2.3.1 instead. If it's easier to pay your $10 for a genuinely useful product than to try and find someone with a pirated copy of 1.2.3.2 then at least a few people might be more likely to register.

    • Re:What's the point? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by yeshuawatso (1774190) * on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:54AM (#35804656) Journal

      Well, would you prefer a more intrusive form of DRM? Removing the shading from a game isn't as bad as some of the DRM schemes that we've seen before by the bigger publishers. The authors aren't looking out to catch the pirates, they're not looking to sue anyone, they're just comically (inside joke, of course) telling the people that they've received an inferior product instead of the normal way of big titles where the pirated versions are superior to the retail version.

      I for one welcome this. It's so small that it doesn't cause too much harm to the pirates in terms of game play, yet big enough that the pirates know they can receive the feature for just $10-$15 depending on prior Steam purchases. It reminds me of when I downloaded the X-Men Wolverine production rip. The CGI was incomplete and it was a nice reminder that I should just wait and rent the DVD (a very effective piracy deterrent, if you ask me). Unfortunately for Fox, I was bored well before the missing CGI came into play (it really was a terrible movie), and fortunately for them, I'm interested in seeing the new X-Men First Class when it comes to theaters in June (let's hope it's not terrible).

      • Re:What's the point? (Score:5, Informative)

        by AAWood (918613) <aawood&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @02:01AM (#35804698)
        It doesn't actually just stop shading, it makes the game crash out whilst giving a fake error message stating which says something about shading.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by yeshuawatso (1774190) *

          Well, I stand corrected. +1 informative

        • by Jamu (852752)
          The problem with introducing fake error messages, is that they cause confusion with real error messages. Now you'll potentially have legitimate customers wondering what's wrong with their graphics card or drivers, when it's the DRM that's at fault. And DRM is often not reliable, and will typically assume a copy is invalid, if it fails to validate a game.
          • I'd heard that the piracy check was based upon SteamID- If your account isn't on the gold-list, it crashes. Not infallible, I suppose, but it's more concrete than many other schemes.

          • by Ash Vince (602485) *

            The problem with introducing fake error messages, is that they cause confusion with real error messages. Now you'll potentially have legitimate customers wondering what's wrong with their graphics card or drivers, when it's the DRM that's at fault. And DRM is often not reliable, and will typically assume a copy is invalid, if it fails to validate a game.

            Everyone loves to jump to the conclusion that DRM in games is always going to break. I have only ever experienced this once. My mother board broke and I had to replace it and then GTA4 noticed and made me reinstall. It made me reinstall by constantly making the game unplayable through me being drunk whenever I got into a car. It did not take me very long to figure this out by a bit of googling.

            I also understood why they did it. Me changing my MB was very hard to differentiate from me zipping up the installe

            • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @07:23AM (#35806210) Journal

              Everyone loves to jump to the conclusion that DRM in games is always going to break. I have only ever experienced this once.

              And now scale your experiences up. A DRM scheme that undergoes even basic testing will always work in the most common cases, but there will always be some set of people for whom it doesn't work correctly. These people now have the software that they've paid for exhibiting bugs because of the DRM.

              I have a sneaky suspicion that the biggest complaints about DRM come from people who know that the perfect DRM system with no bugs would also affect them in some way

              If, by some miracle, you find someone who can write a completely bug-free DRM system, don't waste their talents on writing DRM - they're well into the top 0.001% of all developers, so get them to work writing bug-free code in your real product. Any DRM scheme adds complexity, and those of us who write software know that anything that adds complexity is going to add bugs. Some of the bugs may be minor, some may affect only a single user, but a single legitimate customer having a negative experience caused by code that has no benefit to any legitimate customers is something that I find unacceptable. This is why I don't allow DRM to be included with anything that I create.

          • by SharpFang (651121)

            I've worked for a company with completely opposite politics: report that everything is in order, operation completed successfully, even if authentication fails.

            The system is not 100% secure. It never is. Poke at it enough and you WILL find a way in, one we never thought about. But one way to stop you from poking enough is to convince you you succeeded. Yay, the clever hacker circumvented the dumb authentication system, victory is theirs, let's look for something else to break. The system gives impression of

      • Well, would you prefer a more intrusive form of DRM?

        I'd prefer none. It's a waste of effort on the part of the developers (usually, it is cracked), and it typically affects actual customers as well.

    • by AAWood (918613) <aawood&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @02:04AM (#35804722)
      If a pirate saw a "stop being a douche" message, their first reaction wouldn't be to go and buy the game, it would be to find an updated pirate version that got around that anti-piracy system. By using something that masquerades as an error, their first stop is much more likely to be to go to the forums to try and fix the "error"... thus outing themselves publically.
      • by robthebloke (1308483) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @04:59AM (#35805424)
        But some people won't try to fix the error - and that's actually a much bigger problem.

        We tried something similar in one of our software products. If the software detected modifications to the binary, it would run, but some features would perform 'erratically', and periodically we'd slow the execution down to a crawl. We thought we were being clever until we started seeing a few reviews appearing that panned the software as slow / buggy / unreliable. If you add a scheme of this sorts, you're potentially sacrificing the reputation of your product, and of your company / development team. For every person stupid enough to seek support for a product they don't own, there are another 5 or 6 who aren't that dumb (and will forever remember your company as the one who makes buggy software)
        • by k_187 (61692)

          For every person stupid enough to seek support for a product they don't own, there are another 5 or 6 who aren't that dumb (and will forever remember your company as the one who makes buggy software)

          I can understand this if your anti-piracy measures are affecting legitimate users, but if the users complaining were pirates, do you really want them as customers in the first place? They weren't paying for the software, so why do you care if they're happy?

          • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @06:45AM (#35805920)

            Because prospective legitimate customers will still read their comments and decide not to buy your software.

          • If they are people who wouldn't pay anyway, and it doesn't cost you anything to support them, then you are not losing anything. They may still give you free advertising. Some people really do use pirated programs for evaluation - and sometimes unknowingly. For example, if you know one of your friends has a particular program, then you may try it on their computer before buying it. You don't know if they've got a legal or pirated copy, but if it crashes while you're using it and that say 'oh, yes, it doe

      • Oh no everyone will know AssMan385 is a pirate! I am sure this will bring him such shame that he will be forced to leave his home town and work as a sewage cleaner in Bangkok!

        I hang around the Minecraft forums a lot and the pirates have absolutely no shame. At worst exposing them forces them to come up with a new user name.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Simon Donkers (950228)
      It turns out that the people who like to hack the copy protection and share the game aren't the real gamers.
      I've read a success story about a game in which the finish of the first level wasn't there when the DRM check failed. It was cracked multiple times & uploaded but none of the pirates notices the game could not be finished. It took 2+ months for a real crack to be made while lots of gamers got frustrated with the cracked version and the game had higher sales then normal in the first 2 months.

      S
      • and the game had higher sales then normal in the first 2 months.

        Compared to what? How did they know how many sales there would've been if it hadn't been for that? I admit it's kind of a clever tactic, but I'm interested in how they know this.

        • by crossmr (957846)

          They don't. Some bean counter somewhere estimated sales and then sales may have been higher than what was expected and they attributed it to the copy protection.
          The logic failure of these companies is beyond absurd.

        • by imunfair (877689)

          Well if you think about it logically - it should be higher than normal. Maybe not by much, but higher.

          You've just tricked pirates into playing a trial of your game, basically. At least a few of those pirates should now be willing to buy it since there is nowhere to get it free yet, and they are impatient.

      • That was Spyro: Year of the Dragon for the Playstation. They did a lot of sneaky stuff to make pirated copies not fun, but randomly, so you would think it worked fine until it triggered somewhere else.

        You can read about it here [gamasutra.com].

        Note that since it was a console game there was a very low chance of false positives compared to a PC release.

    • by geekprime (969454)

      Garry's mod has spawned at least three different games with very different gameplay from regular HL/CS, a find the spy before he kills you type game, racing games some where you build the track first Co-op building is fun too.

    • That's not Gmod's only antipiracy measure. You need to link your Steam account and prove you have Garry's Mod in order to download any addons, and Gmod isn't any good without the addons

      So far as creativity goes, if you get some addons, you can build all sorts of fun things. A friend and I spent four hours putting together various types of weapons in a fort-wars sort of thing. I had great fun figuring out how to build an effective antimissile system.

      I've played more time in Gmod than any other game I have, a

  • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:35AM (#35804548)
    It takes a couple minutes just to load the page banner, then once it does, it redirects to an advertisement page.

    I like to RTFA, but you can be sure that I won't be visiting that site ever again.
  • Dummies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Scorch_Mechanic (1879132) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:39AM (#35804576) Journal

    Pirating GMod 10 is like visiting five ice cream shops in a row and getting enough "tastes" to fill a quart. Simply not worth the effort, considering that GMod10 is, was, and will remain ONLY. TEN. DOLLARS. If you own any of Valve's excellent recent games, you've fulfilled the only other requirement (a Source engine game). Chances are high that if you're interested in GMod10, you've already got one or more of those.

    I can understand pirating a $50 game because you want to stick it to the publisher or you want to try it out before shelling out, but pirating something that costs $10 strikes me as a remarkably pointless gesture.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think most of the people who pirate GMod do it because of the shit they pulled on people who tried to distribute the free version after they switched to pay. $10 to selfish idiots is still $10 to selfish idiots.

    • Re:Dummies (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @05:26AM (#35805530)

      I can understand pirating a $50 game...

      Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?

      Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill Well, I suppose we would have to discuss terms, of course

      Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?

      Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!

      Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

    • Re:Dummies (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gsslay (807818) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @05:39AM (#35805576)

      I can understand pirating a $50 game because you want to stick it to the publisher or you want to try it out before shelling out, pirating something that costs $10 strikes me as a remarkably pointless gesture.

      What on earth makes you think it's a "gesture"? Come to that, what makes you think that pirating the $50 game is a "gesture" either? Stop assigning higher motives to things that are far more easily attributed to "getting stuff for free".

      • by vawwyakr (1992390)
        Exactly! It's not like games have been costing more lately. I remember 20 years ago buying a computer game at or around release cost....$50-60 bucks. Now? Same price. So games haven't gone up with inflation at all so if anything they cost less now than they did back then. People who sit around and complain that games cost too much are selfish morons who don't want to pay for something that costs a lot of money to make.
      • Yup. The proper gesture would be waiting until the game was on sale. At least that way the publisher sees an increase in sales at the lower price. Then again why price the game low from the outset if people are willing to pay the higher price? It may sound like a shitty attitude, but it is economics 101.

        If you pirate games don't act surprised if the developer of you favourite game closes shop or doesn't get the contract for a new version. This is even more true for a game developped by an indie developer.

    • People always love to toss out the excuse that game (software) piracy exists mainly because of cost. Yet we see many examples where people will pirate (steal) items with 99 cent prices like those on the App store.

      If you "understand" pirating a $50 game then you would understand pirating a $10 game. Justification on price is odd because your still excusing theft? I will assume the price points are merely the level at which you would succumb to the temptation, in other words, where you would feel justified in

    • there may be a reason, if the cracked version lets you play without steam. I hate steam and have pirated games that I already bought just because my computer was steam free and I didn't want to install steam.

  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:47AM (#35804614) Homepage

    There's an incredibly loud auto-playing advert. Thanks for the warning, guys.

    More advert submissions from the slashdot janitors...

  • by anomnomnomymous (1321267) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @02:15AM (#35804770)
    I'm not too sure if I condone this behaviour, nor do I think this is a 'fun' way to catch pirates: A fun way was how the Nintendo DS version of Michael Jackson: The Experience made copied versions of the game unplayable and taunts gamers with the blaring sound of vuvuzelas: See here [wired.com]

    The problem I have with these kinds of protections is that they also might affect paid customers; Same as with strict DRM.

    I already bought Garry's Mod after having played it for free (as the HL2 mod).
    It was less than 10 dollars, so a real bargain. But I would have reconsidered it if I heard of this beforehand.
    Nonetheless, all power to the developer to protect their property.
    • by ericvids (227598) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:06AM (#35804968)

      RTFA:

      "Making the situation even sweeter, the number which appears in brackets after the error statement is in fact the gamer’s 64-bit steamid.

      Y’see, Steam keeps a list of which accounts have actually forked over the $9.99 for a legit copy of GMod – so it’s a simple matter of checking ids and turfing out the pirates."

      1. There's no way a legitimate customer will get banned. They don't ban you outright for reporting the error message, only when they have proven that you indeed did NOT buy it.

      2. There's probably a (very unlikely) chance for a legitimate customer to be affected with the error message due to an actual bug in the copy protection code, but in that case how is that different from the Michael Jackson game? At least with the error message, Valve can help you fix it (e.g., if their records show that you didn't pirate the game, Valve tech support can ask you to reinstall the game, etc.) No such reprieve for the MJ game -- if the copy protection triggered on a legitimate copy, well, it's definitely no fun anymore is it?

      The only hole now is that the steam ID is probably unencrypted, so malicious users can probably troll others by posting the error message on Steam tech support with their victim's steam ID. But since Valve has the balls to release this info, they probably already have some mechanism in place to prevent these trollers from doing so.

      • If I RTFA correctly, the only "bans" being handed out are on the official GMod forums, which are entirely separate from Steam, so there's little room for trolling.

        READ: Valve has nothing to do with this. This is the GMod dev banning people from his own forums, and nothing more.

    • "It was less than 10 dollars, so a real bargain. But I would have reconsidered it if I heard of this beforehand."

      To summarize:
        Turns off honest potential customers.
        Doesn't cause the pirates to buy a copy.

      The author/owner publicly outed himself as someone who isn't after the money. Seems more like this is to enjoy hurting others.

      Sounds like someone I want to give money to.

  • A few hours ago, Garry Newman – the creator of Garry's Mod – asked, quite innocently, whether anyone was unable to shade polygon normals.

    A few moments ago, Googlebot visited the sites.

    A hour from now, a puzzled evil pirate gamer types "Unable to shade polygon normals" in Google, and guess what pops up? They're going to think "oops, I'd better not report that issue. In fact, it's better not to report any issues in any of my pirated games! Glad this issue has already been documented!"

    This is the information age. People document things openly. Don't build DRM that is built on top of ignorance and secrets. It only works for a while and you waste

    • by Kaenneth (82978)

      At least it'll keep pirates from wasting tech support time as much.

  • In response to the several comments re: "it's all in good fun, just a joke, not trying to catch pirates" -- note that what's happening is tricking people with a fake error message that includes their Steam ID, so when they report it can get their account banned.

    FTA: "Not long after posting the request, the user found themselves permabanned from the forums for using pirated software."

  • The piracy detection fails occassionally, and a honest paying customer gets hurt (and probably buys less in the future, because he feels (and rightly so) that he got cheated).

    • by gsslay (807818)

      Every enhancement and change a developer makes to software might fail occasionally, and the honest paying customer gets hurt. That's why you test these things and offer support to your paying customers. Piracy detection is no different in this regard.

      • by delinear (991444)
        It's generally the case that this happens when you're adding features that benefit gamers, though. In this case the only thing that's being added is yet more DRM nonsense, it doesn't benefit legitimate users (and at worst it can be a huge inconvenience), it's arguable whether it actually benefits the game developers (when offset against the cost of implementation).
  • There are so many ways to fuck up the experience for pirates that you could keep them busy for weeks. The game could slap in the usual coarse copy protection / DRM routines but then do inline checks that only trigger in esoteric ways and exhibit faults seemingly unrelated to the trigger. So some guy switching from a 800x600 to 1024x768 screen triggers a check which causes a specific glitch 35 minutes later. Another guy walks over a hidden trigger on level 4 which disables the free() routine and causes memor
    • by sFurbo (1361249)

      Obviously you'd have to extensively QA test any potential checks and the consequences and prevent false positives

      Just like every other DRM scheme to date? I mean, if it is as simple as "doing extensive QA testing", it must be done today already, and no reports of false positives of DRM schemes can be found.

      Plus, as other people have pointed out, if it isn't clear that the behaviour is because of DRM, people will assume the game is just buggy as hell, and avoid buying anything from that distributor in the future.

      • by DrXym (126579)

        Obviously you'd have to extensively QA test any potential checks and the consequences and prevent false positives

        Just like every other DRM scheme to date? I mean, if it is as simple as "doing extensive QA testing", it must be done today already, and no reports of false positives of DRM schemes can be found. Plus, as other people have pointed out, if it isn't clear that the behaviour is because of DRM, people will assume the game is just buggy as hell, and avoid buying anything from that distributor in the future.

        Not necessarily. Do you think Garry's Mod is bugged because it can't render normals? What about Batman Arkham Asylum after people complained they couldn't glide over a particular gap?

    • by muffen (321442)

      Just when the cracker thinks they've fixed the game, another one turns up.

      One would assume the cracker to change the actual copy-protection check function, always returning true (or whatever number represnts "pass"). Seems like an awful waste of time changing all the places it's called from.

      Plus, let's face it, copy protection has been tried in sooo many different ways and forms, and has yet to be implemented so it works. From the color-discs in Monkey Island to the abnormaly large file on whatever tha

      • by DrXym (126579)
        This isn't copy protection, this is cracker protection. The cracker would go in and strip the copy protection, release the crack and then experience the embarrassment when their crack didn't work. So they'd spend an age a reported issue only for another to turn up, and another, and another. Meanwhile pirates waiting for the crack would get pissed off, disheartened, confused and some might even go buy the original game if it's worth playing.

        The point is to make the entire exercise a timesink. And woe betid

    • I think Half-life 2 did something like this. I remember playing a pirated version once, and a couple hours into the game, an NPC would outrun you and lock a fence door ahead of you, then autosave. Damn I hated that NPC, standing there and looking at me through the fence. And yes, I later bought the game.

  • by Veggiesama (1203068) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @08:16AM (#35806642)

    Before you salute this vigilante gesture, a lone captain taking on the high seas of piracy, stop and consider these necessary questions:

    1. How does the developer determine whether the customer's version of the product (a mod, no less) is legitimate or pirated?
    2. Is this method a 100% foolproof way to detect a pirated copy?
    3. Could a false positive ever be detected, flagging a legitimate customer as a pirate?
    4. Could a programming error, introduced either now or in the future, ever flag a user as a pirate?
    5. Could a cracked game executable, modified content files, or lack of Internet connection ever flag a user as a pirate?
    6. What does the developer do with this new list of suspected users? Is it merely for research purposes, or does he plan to turn it over to other authorities (i.e. could these users be perma-banned not just from the forums, but also from the mod, from the game, or from the Steam network?)
    7. What makes the developer think the pirate community can't bypass this slightly more deceptive form of DRM, like they have so many times in the past?

    I do not condone the actions of people who would pirate an indy developer's $10 game, but I also don't condone a developer running wild on an anti-piracy power-trip. By banning every single person who complains of this from his forums, he may be inadvertently banning users with legitimate problems. It wouldn't be the first time. [arstechnica.com]

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