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Stardock, Microsoft Unveil Their Own New Anti-Piracy Methods 232

Island Dog sends news that shortly after Valve showed off their new anti-piracy methods in Steamworks, Microsoft and Stardock were quick to demonstrate their new, similar technologies as well. All three companies are bending over backwards to say that this is not traditional DRM. Stardock (the company behind the Gamer's Bill of Rights) calls their system Game Object Obfuscation (Goo), "a tool that allows developers to encapsulate their game executable into a container that includes the original executable plus Impulse Reactor, Stardock's virtual platform, into a single encrypted file. When a player runs the game for the first time, the Goo'd program lets the user enter in their email address and serial number which associates their game to that person as opposed to a piece of hardware like most activation systems do. Once validated, the game never needs to connect to the Internet again." Microsoft's update to Games for Windows Live has similar protections. "You can sign in and play your game on as many systems as possible, but you have to have a license attached to your account. Of course, this only works for online games."
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Stardock, Microsoft Unveil Their Own New Anti-Piracy Methods

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  • It's GOOd... *ducks*
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 )

      Since it uses a graphical user interface, it's GUI GOO.

      As to the implimentation, sorry guys but I refuse to have anything to do with anything that contains Dumb Restriction on Media. When the car companies start telling me what I can or can't do with or to my car, I'll fucking walk, or buy a horse.

  • Goo? (Score:5, Funny)

    by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @11:48AM (#27343113) Homepage

    "Goo" for Game Object Obfuscation?!? Why not simply Controled Update Management?

  • by F-3582 ( 996772 )
    An online game that never needs to connect to the internet again?!? My brains just asploded...
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tecnico.hitos ( 1490201 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:12PM (#27343499)

      On the other side, it's always annoying the need of connecting to internet to register an offline game.

      I have friends that don't have internet access. Few years ago even I didn't. Also, an ISP subscription is an extra cost, which not everyone is willing to pay.

      They should provide an alternative(which I doubt they will now).

      • have friends that don't have internet access.

        So, no internet, but a computer powerful enough to run Far Cry 2?

        Did he make it out back in the shed?

      • by syousef ( 465911 )

        On the other side, it's always annoying the need of connecting to internet to register an offline game

        No, it's not just annoying. It means they have control to prevent you from using the software. The company can go bust, change hands, close down a division, decide the software is too old, and you're stuck with install media that is useless. Not to mention, tough luck if you're wanting to install somewhere and you don't have net access.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward


  • Basically this is what WoW has been able to do for all these years making mad money. You tie the license to an account. But it's true that online games are the only winners of this strategy. This is not intrusive either and does not prevent you from installing the game everywhere you want. I approve.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nschubach ( 922175 )

      When a player runs the game for the first time, the Goo'd program lets the user enter in their email address and serial number which associates their game to that person as opposed to a piece of hardware like most activation systems do. Once validated, the game never needs to connect to the Internet again.

      You need an internet connection to "associate" your email and serial to the game.

      This is not intrusive either and does not prevent you from installing the game everywhere you want.

      I approve.

      Unless you don't have an internet connection available.

      It's still DRM.

      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        Or in ten years when you want to play the game with your kid and the activation servers are have been down for the last 5.
        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          Did you miss the "never has to connect to the internet again" part the first 17 times it was pointed out? With the Stardock approach, as long as you have your activated copy of the game, you're good to go.

  • Whoever first injected DRM (and all the related schemes) into the product development process was absolutely brilliant. It's like making a car that will fall apart a year after the warranty runs out, thereby encouraging the buyer to come back and buy a new car except, in this case, the car falls apart days after being released into the wild meaning the company needs to continue employing their DRM team so they can come up with yet a new scheme that will again crumble in a matter of days. It's planned obsole
    • ... and this is like making a car that needs to phone home before it will start

      and if the manufacturer has gone under, or is having system problems today, or the phone service is down, then you cannot drive your car

      Why do they pretend to sell you software at all, they are not selling you anything but the privilege of using their software, unless they decide otherwise, or you can't connect, until they can't be bothered to support it anymore ....

  • by Reason58 ( 775044 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @11:56AM (#27343245)

    It associates your account with the game the first time you run it? How does this combat piracy? Almost all software that is available for piracy is the pre-installation package.

    What problem is this bulky, resource eater solving?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gbjbaanb ( 229885 )

      I believe this has nothing to do with combating pirated, cracked, games. Its there to inconvenience the retail user that paid for the game only.

      (incidentally, Impulse is a POS. I bought Sins of a Solar Empire, tried to install impulse (needed to actually get the game downloaded) but it barfed, then barfed everytime as it tried to uninstall the previous version, which wasn't installed, so it meant I'd paid for nothing. My support call to Stardock is still waiting for a response. I fixed it in the end by goin

      • by Dan667 ( 564390 )
        They should give you your money back, let you keep the game, and give you a gift certificate. If DRM is so great then when it inconveniences the Customer they should bend over backwards to try and help you. Most don't get it though. Steam is the only one that gives you something for giving up your ownership, convenience.
  • Stuff like this makes me feel less bad about Linux not being the same sort of PC
    gaming platform that Windows is. If these sorts of shenanigans are a part of the
    bargain then I would rather just stick to a Wii or a PS3 plugged into my 60" TV
    in the living room.

  • by Hasney ( 980180 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @11:58AM (#27343297) Journal
    Seriously, these protections that are "not DRM" still manage my rights to things that are digital. However unintrusive these things are to my system, they are still doing the same thing and therefore this re-branding of it is just stupid.

    Hopefully people are bright enough to see through this little marketing exercise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nschubach ( 922175 )

      I've been saying that for years now. Stardock/Impulse/etc. are DRM. They limit the ability to distribute digital media.

      You still need an internet connection to enable it from the wording in the summary. What happens when that server is no longer alive? How am I to play the game? What if I don't have internet when I install it on my laptop on a plane to play when I'm bored?

      • by Alistar ( 900738 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:25PM (#27343693)

        I've used Stardock's Impulse a little bit and while I can't comment on all games on it, the 3 I have it works quite well. You can tie a license key to an account, however I have installed and played 2 of the 3 offline never connecting to the internet to play or install, simply by entering the license key in the normal installation. Then I can then tie it to Stardock Impulse which will automatically tell me about updates and help me install them. To register it with Impulse I simply entered the license key again with the online component. In fact Impulse recognized that I had the game installed and asked me if I wanted to add it into the system.

        Also, I can then log into stardock impulse on any other computer and it will allows me to re-download and install the game on that one as well. Well I've only done it for one so far, Sins of a Solar Empire, so again I can't comment for all games.

        In fact, I play offline all the time and only fire up Impulse (I haven't needed to run it to play the games) when I check for updates.

        • You didn't actually address GP's concerns though. The fact that you initially have to activate the game online at all is restrictive. Maybe not so much now, but what about ten years down the road when you install the game for nostalgia's sake and the lisence server has been long since taken down?

          If you don't think this will be a problem, and that these games will be able to be activated online until the end of time, then you need to wake up and pay attention to the history of DRM. There are already plenty of examples of servers being shut off, leaving people without access to the media they paid for.

          Or maybe you just only play modern games. That's OK, as long as you realize that a good percentage of gamers out do pick up the older stuff every once in a while.
    • You are correct sir.

      I remember the good old days, when you did not have to beg for permission to use the software you paid for.

      CASH is the transaction. I'm not paying for your bullshit harrasment and limits on my freedom. If you're going to limit my freedom, then limit the fee at which you demand for your wicked software.

  • A weak point? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @11:59AM (#27343301)

    To defeat this system, all I need to do is to "share" my email account with other folks, or just setup an account just for game purposes. What about that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 )
      I'm not sure how it works with Impulse or Windows Live, but as far as Steam goes, if multiple users attempt to log in and play simultaneously with one Steam account, the user who logged in first will eventually receive an "Invalid Steam UserID Ticket" error message and be forced to log back in to continue playing (if the first user logs back in, the second user will receive this error message).
      • by Mex ( 191941 )

        And with Steam, if your IPs are different enough, you'll be banned (Say one login from the USA and another from Canada).

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 )

      To defeat this system, all I need to do is to "share" my email account with other folks, or just setup an account just for game purposes. What about that?

      If it's anything like Steam, you need to get online to authenticate. Once they receive a statistically unreasonable amount of authentications for email "x", it's very simple to refuse further authentications citing that email address. If someone "stole" your email address this puts you in the position of losing access to ALL your game

  • GOO? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @11:59AM (#27343313) Journal
    Such an unfortunate choice of acronym. Pity they did not choose on that is truly reflective of the gaming platform they are pushing. Platform Object Obfustcation. Even Peer Encrypted Encapsulation would have been better.
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:15PM (#27343541)

    What if I decide that I played the game enough and I want to give or sell it to somebody else? Must I give them my email account as well? Or what if I decide to give it to by kid/brother/wife/dog so he can start using it on his/her/its PC?

    And what if I buy a new PC after I changed providers, so I don't have my old email address anymore?

    It manages my rights digitally, so it is just a different kind of Digital Rights Management. Perhaps they have forgotten what DRM stand for?

  • by bhunachchicken ( 834243 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:23PM (#27343671) Homepage

    Probably the third time I've written this, but the solution to the rampant piracy on the PC gaming platform is simply to offer the games as subscription downloads via a service such as Steam.

    Effectively you would rent the game - Depending on how much you pay per month, you get a set amount of refundable credits to spend on the games. Newer games would cost more, whilst older titles would cost less. You could play as many games as your tokens permit, and revoke your rent on a game once you're done with it; or, more importantly, when you discover it is not for you or doesn't work well on your system. I'm lucky to own a console. I've bought PC games in the past, played them for a couple of weeks, gone off them but am effectively stuck with them. With my PS3 games, I just sell them back to the shop.

    Additionally, the service could offer things like trophies and achievements (yes, I know Windows Lives already does this). Throw in a few classics that are free to play (such as Doom and Quake) and you've got a system with a lot of appeal.

    The nice thing about this service is that, because it's a subscription, you can play the games on any machine by just logging into your account. There's probably a major, major flaw with this idea... but it looks good on paper.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dan667 ( 564390 )
      That is great and all, but people like to own what they buy. No one wants a rental service as has been shown over and over in the marketplace (like the bastardized napster, *cough* *cough*)
      • but people like to own what they buy

        Would you mind telling that to the government? They keep thinking they own what I buy.

    • Depending on how much you pay per month, you get a set amount of refundable credits to spend on the games.

      Credits? Tokens? Just as long as no one lines up to put quarters on my desk.

  • Make it too difficult for the average guy to deal with the projects and the public will demand its removal. Or they will just buy from other companies.

    Until DRM is mandated by the government ( which may happen here soon ) there is still a choice.

  • ... is unlikely to increase sales significantly. Making good games on the other hand most definitely will.

    Spend your time making games I want to play and I'll buy them. The people pirating your games usually either can't afford them, will never buy them anyway, or simply want a demo that isn't too short or extremely buggy.
  • Did anyone else think of Grey Goo when he read the bit about Stardock's "Goo"?

    Ironically, their method sounds a bit like safedisc. You know...encrypt the executable file? But how does it work? When someone changes their email address, does that change follow with this? I'm guessing potentially not.

    Another thing: Is it just me, or is it coincidence that MS, Valve, and Stardock (I've never heard of these guys) all happen to have DRMv2 far enough along that they can try to get their "Me Too"'s in?

  • by Hordeking ( 1237940 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @12:43PM (#27343985)

    Not a traditional DRM

    Um...sure guys. Whatever you say.

    How do you define "traditional". From my end, I don't get to see the implementation details, just whether or not I can run the game/program without any hassles and maintain my anonymity. If you're forcing me to identify myself or otherwise check in with you, it's still traditional DRM.

    Get a clue. If the game phones home at any point, I don't buy it.

  • That being said, what happens if someone steals your account and cheats or something like that?

    I've mentioned it before and here again, I'd like to see token authentication with an RSA key fob or similar like paypal currently has.

    They only cost $5 and you have a secured connection where only you can log in. Yes it's a hassle for some, but you don't have to make everyone use it. Just those of us who want to use it should.

    After all, my account has a considerable investment with at least $1000 worth of games

  • Since the validation happens only once, does that mean that I can take the game and run it on any computer I want? how does that help combat piracy?

    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      I was thinking the same thing, but then I came up with the answer:

      It validates every time the hardware changes... So you need to be online every time you get a new computer or make a hardware change.

  • ummm yeah... "Once validated, the game never needs to connect to the Internet again." more fun for crackers.

  • I could care less about DRM, but I hate three things:
    (1) I hate programs that require me to have the DVD in the computer when playing.
    (2) I hate programs that don't shut down all processes when not in use.
    (3) I hate programs that don't completely uninstall when I attempt to uninstall them.
    Since this kind of DRM addresses my concerns---I LIKE IT!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Too bad I hate
      (1)Needing an internet connection to play a 1-player game
      (2)Forcing me to give a company my email account when I purchase a game
      (3)Being treated like I'm a criminal for wanting to play their game

      Luckily for me, the more companies that adopt DRM or other anti-piracy measures, the more free games I get. If they treat me like a customer, they'll get my money. If they treat me like a thief, they won't.
  • by dweller_below ( 136040 ) on Thursday March 26, 2009 @01:21PM (#27344511)

    This is Bad News for me.

    I like computer games. I have been buying games for years. I spent over $1000 for my Atari800 games. I spent over $1500 for my Amiga games. I spent that much for just MSDOS games. I have spent at least $2000 for Windows games. I have purchased many of the commercial games available for Linux.

    I want to play my computer games. I still go back to games that I purchased years ago. Most of the time, I can use emulation/virtualization to enjoy a good game as long as I like.

    At this point I have hundreds of data-points that show that the normal state of a game is unsupported. The normal state of a game developer is shutdown.

    As far as I can tell, any game that requires on-line activation might as well be a rental. Just as soon as I start to like it, it will become unsupported. I would like to play Spore, but there appears to be no point. As soon as I start to enjoy it, it will be gone. The same thing goes for most of the current crop of 'activation required' games.

    Fortunately, I already own a LOT of really good games that I can play however I want, anytime I want. The last week, I have been playing Starships Unlimited 3. Plays great in Wine! if you like turn-based strategy, you should pick up a copy from: []
    before they go out of business.


  • Just because they claim it's not tradition DRM, doesn't mean that their new thing is "better".

    I don't have an Xbox (no TV) - I only play on my buddy's 360. He's got a platinum account, so we've had him just buy all the games/extra content we want. Notably, Penny Arcade's two installments, and Bring Down The Sky for Mass Effect. We split the cost since I don't want or need the super-duper-special account where MS gets to keep my credit card on file.

    Then he upgraded his 360 to a more recent model he found

  • Yo, everyone! Microsoft, Stardock, Adobe, Sony, and all the rest of you. I've got an idea on how you can make money here. Listen carefully, because this is very tricky.

    What you need to do is sell me something that I can take home and use!
    Sell me a program, let me install it and use it.
    Sell me a CD, let me put it in the car and listen to it.

    In short, QUIT SCREWING AROUND WITH DRM! It does NOTHING but make me less inclined to pay for your damned products! Even moreso if I need an internet connection to author

  • I bought Sins of a Solar Empire because Stardock seemed to be above the whole DRM game, at the time. And whereas Sins runs well under Wine, Impulse does not, because of some stupid IE7 requirement. Still, I was able to play their recent Entrenchment expansion by installing it under Windows and copying it over (along with the registry keys), so I guess all is not lost.

  • I'll stick to buying used classic PC games. These idiots aren't getting a dime from me!

  • From reading the summary, it says that once the game has been authenticated it never needs to phone home again. It seems to me like that should be pretty easy to circumvent. How does the authentication scheme really work? On some level, there has to be a function that checks whether or not the authentication was successful, right? What is to stop someone from firing up a debugger, finding the call to the authentication validation, and then patching it?
    • Sounds like it works in a fairly simple way. The game and the Impulse stuff is encrypted. Its probably encrypted using a key unique to that copy. When you run it, it checks your registry for a decryption key. If its not there, you have to enter your e-mail address and register it with them. Once you have done so, your computer can decrypt and play the game. So you can fake this step, but without the key, what good does it do you? None! Of course, you can spread that key around with the copy, but th

      • by dave562 ( 969951 )
        I missed the part that the original installer is encrypted and requires an unlock key. So it isn't the typical setup where you install the software and then it phones home. Instead this one works the other way around, where it phones home first to verify your right to install it, then it installs.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.