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Last post Author Topic: Software Copy Protection Questions  (Read 20761 times)

f0dder

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #25 on: October 02, 2007, 03:40:26 AM »
Quote from: app103
About the only thing you can do is get a list of the tools they would be using, and try to detect them and shut down the game if any are detected running. (and don't forget to detect if the game is running on an OS in something like VMware)
Badbadbadbadbadbadbad idea. Users really don't like this, and there's a lot of room for messing things up. And why not allow running on vmware? that's plain lame. And it is not something that will stop crackers, or even slow them down.
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Ehtyar

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #26 on: October 02, 2007, 06:09:53 AM »
Quote from: app103
About the only thing you can do is get a list of the tools they would be using, and try to detect them and shut down the game if any are detected running. (and don't forget to detect if the game is running on an OS in something like VMware)
Badbadbadbadbadbadbad idea. Users really don't like this, and there's a lot of room for messing things up. And why not allow running on vmware? that's plain lame. And it is not something that will stop crackers, or even slow them down.
Now to be honest here, this is the BEST way imaginable to have some reverse-engineering-savvy user to unpack/reverse your app just to get rid of these checks, then crack the game while he/she is at it just 'coz you made him waste his time disassembling it in the first place. As f0dder said, BAAAAAAAD idea.

Ehtyar.

app103

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #27 on: October 02, 2007, 08:48:33 AM »
Like I said originally, how much time & energy do you want to devote to making a free puzzle game for crackers.


Tinjaw's question was a 2 part one:

1. How to protect his app from crackers that will try to beat the licensing of his game.
2. How to protect the images in the game.

To both of them, it's futile. You can do all kinds of things and waste a lot of time, money, and energy..and still it won't be enough.

So far most of the responses to tinjaw's post have been related to #1 and not really addressing the issue of #2. My answer was for #2 and not really addressing #1.

Honest people don't use cracks, they pay for games.

And those that use cracks will not buy your game any way, so no money is lost there.

And those that crack the games do it for fun. You provide them with a free puzzle game no matter what you do. And they will be going after beating the licensing...not likely trying to extract the images.

And my comment about detecting tools was referring to tools ordinary users would use to make screen captures of the game in order to get the images...not to crackers cracking the game itself to bypass licensing. I am sorry if I didn't make that clear enough.

Why detect if the game is running in vmware? Well the screen capture tools might not be installed on the virtual machine, but still exist and are running outside the vm.

But you know what? You still can't stop the screen shots even if you do that. What about a user simply using the print screen key and pasting into paint? Are you going to disable that key while the game is running? What about if a user remaps the key to another? Are you going to disable all keys on the keyboard to prevent that too?

What you need to do is keep the comic book company happy with the amount of protection you use and not annoy honest people while preventing them from doing stupid things.

Forget about crackers...they aren't the real issue. They will crack your game no matter what and you can't stop them.

If shutting down the game when a screen capture utility is detected to keep ordinary users from getting the images is going too far, then you don't do that.

But remember what I said when the comic book company starts screaming about their images all over the web. You would do better to go with some reasonable protection and spend the extra time preparing a speech to give the comic book company when they get upset that the protection of their images has failed.

Veign

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #28 on: October 02, 2007, 09:36:53 AM »
Here's a pretty good article on protecting software:

HOW TO PROTECT BETTER:
http://www.searchlor...rg/protec/protec.htm

--plus--

Defending Shareware Against Cracks
http://www.crypto-ce...Against%20Cracks.htm

hollowlife1987

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #29 on: October 02, 2007, 09:51:17 AM »
tinjaw you might want to take a look at Themida it seems to have the best features for any executable protector
http://www.oreans.co...themida_features.php

If someone wants the data bad enough they will get it. Bottom line.

Ehtyar

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #30 on: October 02, 2007, 04:02:53 PM »
Indeed themida would be he first choice of any cracker-savvy person who does not have an unlimited budget. However, as app has said, it does not address the content-drm issue. There has been advice given on this topic which has apparently been passed over so i will not repeat it.

Ehtyar.

rssapphire

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #31 on: October 02, 2007, 04:30:45 PM »
You have to decide what line of business you are in:
1. Are you making games to sell to honest people?
2. Are you making free puzzle games for crackers?

You also need to decide if your game is aimed at hardcore gamers or more casual gamers.  Hardcore gamers will put up with all sorts of copy protection annoyances to play a game.They be happy to reboot with a special configuration that excludes the drivers they need to get work done (like a virtual CD driver or a macro program), allow special "protection/license" services to run even when they aren't playing the game, etc. But the more of that crap there is, the less likely a more casual gamer is to buy and play the game.

I'm a very casual gamer. I can only squeeze in a few hours a week max for playing games. Before I buy a game, I try to carefully research it to be sure it:

a) installs completely on my hard drive. I don't want to have to hunt up and insert the CD when I have time to play. If the game wants the CD inserted just to prove I bought the game (and will not work easily with Game Jackal), I don't buy it. After all, people who don't buy the game but get a cracked version off the net don't have to keep the CD handy, so why should those of us who pay for the game to have to do so? (Quizzes requiring the manual are even worse.)

b) does not keep anything running on my system when I am not playing the game. Sorry. Your protection services do not need to be always running and eating eating my memory and my CPU cycles. Start them with the game and stop them (and remove them from memory) immediately when I exit the game.

c) works with whatever drivers and always on software I want to use. I need a virtual CD for work. It's not coming off to play a game just to make copy protection happy. The same with macro programs, VMware network drivers and the like. If I have to reboot in some special configuration to make the copy protection happy, I'm not buying the game.

d) has NO rootkits or other hidden crap that could mess over my system and not even leave me a clue it is running.

e) uninstalls ALL copy protection when I uninstall the game.

f) does not need to "call home" to allow me to play (unless it is being played multiplayer from a central server, of course). "Calling home" to authenticate once the first time I play after installing the game is fine, but needing to do so after that is out.  I'm not paying to be tracked by some business with a non-negotiable, change at any time privacy policy.

Hardcore gamers will put up with all this and more, of course. Those of us who squeeze in a few hours a week for games generally will not. I admit I'm more strict than a lot of people, but the more hoops the copy protection makes people jump through to play, the less likely more casual gamers are to buy the game.
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Lashiec

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #32 on: October 03, 2007, 09:06:16 PM »
Emmm, actually hardcore gamers are the group that is less patient when it comes to play nice with content protection. Gaming forums are full of people complaining about DRM in games (BioShock being the latest one, which was handled quite nicely by Irrational), and some incidents were quite public (like when UbiSoft games started to bork because of Starforce and the company decided to not use that evil protection anymore). Hardcore gamers go as far as to buy a reedition of a game if it does not include copy protection. In the other hand, I know several hardcore gamers that complain about copy protection and, at the same time, their practices give companies more reasons to f*** us...

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and it also depends of how people use the computer. Looking at the measures you take before installing the game, I'd say that you're a casual gamer but a power user, so it's natural you're cautious about what software does to your PC. Your average user is another story :)

As for tinjaw question, I don't know what would the best choice, but ensure you have some balance between your rights as a developer and our rights as users. That means, choose a strong software to protect your game which does not annoy your buyers, by playing nice and uninstalling cleanly, so rssapphire does not have to do so many checks before enjoying the game ;)

But hey, maybe you should go old school and make a copy protection scheme ala good old Lucas Arts or Sierra On-Line :D

f0dder

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #33 on: October 04, 2007, 04:08:42 AM »
Ah, StarForce and the other big and evil game protection schemes... I've always grabbed no-cd cracks for the games I've purchased, it sucks having to insert the CD/DVD to play the game, when all the data files are installed to your harddrive anyway. And the protections tend to slow down things, in-game or startup or both (with one CD drive I had, starting up unreal tournament took a couple of minutes... and was down to less than a half after de-protecting. Yay for cd-checks).
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tinjaw

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #34 on: October 04, 2007, 08:13:12 AM »
I know, despite whatever I say, you will probably take this the wrong way. So, for that, I apologize in advance.

I am a gamer and have been since computer games were invented. I know the evils of StarForce, etc. I know how having to put a CD in the drive to play a game sucks. I know all about the evils of having to jump through hoops entering keys. I remember having to enter the fifth word of the third sentence of the fourth paragraph on page 18 to play games. Got it.

But that is not what I wanted to discuss in this thread. Ranting about how software protection is a load of shit, isn't answering my question.

[sorry, you are receiving the ass end of my slugging through dozens of off-topic rants and religious wars the past few days while doing lots of research online. Please accept my apology.]

I wanted to discuss the high level details of implementing software protection as a developer. What companies make products to implement software protection that are affordable and provide a reasonable amount of protection? What techniques have been employed in the past? i.e. protected blocks of code, checking for registration keys at random times in multiple places, etc.

I want to thank the posters that have provided me with links to products. I have downloaded several demos and I will be exploring them over the weekend. Some of them actually look reasonably priced, and if they work well, will probably end up being my choice going forward.

I did purchase one book on the topic, Crackproof Your Software: Protect Your Software Against Crackers. It has mixed reviews, but it seems to be the only book that provides a good overview of the subject matter.

I have an idea how you can get back at me for growling at you. Bug me about writing all of this shit up in some blog entries, or something like it, for the other newbies venturing into this territory. It will take you badgering me for a few weeks, but I will do my penance eventually and it will probably save more than a few noobs some aggravation.

Ehtyar

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #35 on: October 04, 2007, 05:12:07 PM »
To be honest, I'm less interested in hearing about this in a blog compared to receiving some feedback from you as to which solutions mentioned so far you're liking and for what reason. If you just wanted a massive list of all protection schemes i imagine Google would have been a better place to look.

Ehtyar.

tinjaw

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #36 on: October 04, 2007, 07:09:36 PM »
To be honest, I'm less interested in hearing about this in a blog compared to receiving some feedback from you as to which solutions mentioned so far you're liking and for what reason.

That would be the content of the blog entries as I use the stuff.

If you just wanted a massive list of all protection schemes i imagine Google would have been a better place to look.

I wasn't looking for just a list. I was looking for a prescreened list with plenty of critiques of items listed. For example, product x is inexpensive to purchase but takes five times as long to implement as the others, while product y only does this one thing, but is best of breed, etc.

rssapphire

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #37 on: October 04, 2007, 08:44:16 PM »
But that is not what I wanted to discuss in this thread. Ranting about how software protection is a load of shit, isn't answering my question.

It wasn't so much a rant about the evils of software protection (I don't even think it is evil in general, just often very poorly implemented), but making the point that one important (and often overloaded by programmers, IMHO) part of selecting what software protection a game is going to use is knowing the specific market the game is going to target so the target market's tolerance for software protection hoops to jump though can be factored into the decision.
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Ehtyar

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Re: Software Copy Protection Questions
« Reply #38 on: October 04, 2007, 11:19:07 PM »
I wasn't looking for just a list. I was looking for a prescreened list with plenty of critiques of items listed. For example, product x is inexpensive to purchase but takes five times as long to implement as the others, while product y only does this one thing, but is best of breed, etc.
It is obvious, to me at least, that what you're asking for is not going to be found here, particularly given that the majority of developer regulars on this forum are freeware developers. What you're asking for also fails to take into account the point that rssapphire makes, that your solution will need to be, at least to some degree, tailored to your situation, a topic upon which many solutions have been put forth.

Ehtyar.