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StarForce Revisted

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February 13, 2006 2:18:14 AM

Aaron McKenna just posted a follow-up on StarForce. From the column:

"It was early October of last year that I first spoke about copy protection and the ongoing The War on Game Pirates. Since then one of the star examples of that article, StarForce, has gone on to generate a grass roots effort against its use; and a few high-profile headlines after threatening to sue journalists for reporting on the alleged harmful effects of the system."

What are your experiences with StarForce?

More about : starforce revisted

February 13, 2006 3:18:29 AM

Well, i was quite shocked to see i had the starforce drivers on my system.
SO much thanks for the link.. i have now successfully got rid of them.

My game was X2: the threat --that came with graphics card.
It is also comforting to note those guys removed starforce from the game.
But not so comforting to have no idea there were starforce drivers lurking about still.
February 13, 2006 6:08:32 AM

Quote:

And while we journalists run around tempting lawsuits and pointing fingers, one shouldn't forget that this is a grass roots campaign: It was started by guys like Larry "Soulcommander" Freese talking to users and publishers alike in his own time in the Ubisoft technical forums, and William "13thHouR" Taggart going in-depth about how the system works. If nothing else this is a good example of online consumer activism.


Although some of us may find some consolence in this, I feel that the process of confronting companies like StarForce with their behavior and consequences thereof, rather slow.

I think an organisation that will stand up for the rights of digital consumers world wide would benefit us all. In order to balance the power of big publishers out there, an organized bundling of consumer power is required.

Btw, because licenses to use StarForce in games are bought by the publishers from StarForce, I think the majority of complaints should not be directed at StarForce but at the publishers that use their services. Consumers don't buy StarForce products, we just buy games.

I haven't had a bad experience with StarForce yet, although I know I have it on my system as I am playing a BiA: Earned in Blood right now. If I start having problems I'm going to call the publisher, and I'll expect good technical support from them!
Related resources
February 13, 2006 9:15:11 AM

What the anti-copy lot dont realize is that thier protection will always will be cracked. The latest starforce was just a little harder then usual and it there was a workaround within days. This was a little annoying people who had to uplug thier drives, but soon enough a simple solution was found from the daemon tools team. The point is that you can never stop a cracker when your giving them the plans to your software, although it may be in asm but its still readable the best anti-copy software is make the software as much as a puzzle for the cracker to solve and hey thats why half the reason crackers, crack games out there... for the sheer knowlage that they have solved someones puzzle. Its a game and they love to play it.
February 13, 2006 9:24:20 AM

almost no troubles :p P

I bought GTR because I didnt want any trouble with copy protections :p 

With that reason in mind I feel sooo stupid today

the game works ( sometimes ) but it usually crashes when Im in game menues, the only way out is to reset my computer.

I have hade a fruitless maildiscussion, and in the end I got the answer that I should use fastwrite in my graphics settings. By doin so the game hade SEVERE graphical errors but it didnt crash ( the errors showed in game as fences in the middle of the track, sometimes the tarmac looked like gras but with tarmac grip.. the game was unplayable )

the support never answered me when I asked what to do about these errors

they have told me to reinstall my computer and have nothing but GTR installed, that didnt work either...

simbin have told me on the phone that they have hade "some problems" with starforce, and that most of the errors occured after implementing this copy protection. They also told me that a scratch on your play cd can make starforce believe that you are using a copied CD and therefore it wont start or it will crash randomly.. YOHOO !!! :evil: 

when all is said and done .. ..
I bought the game with a hope not to have any problems .. After buying this game I dont think Ill by any game again.. thank you starforce!!

//ahlis
February 13, 2006 10:08:23 AM

Man was i wrong... i thought these guys were just plain annoying but didnt realise it, now i am convinced that they are nothing but a cancer on the Gaming Industry.

Quote:
"And people who have libraries of music own those because the music will still be listened to 500 years from now and a videogame is played for a year the longest until the next version comes out."


So... StarForce are for all those awfull rushed yearly sequels... StarForce believe in games not being compatible with newer operating systems...

Personnaly i still love playing Final Fantasy 7, I dabble in some classic Lesiure Suit Larry 1 (with the best copy protection system ever) and Police Quest (with one of the more frustating old codebook styles, but still worth it)

Its easy to see why they have so little respect for the end consumers when they cheapen us to the point of being sheep who mindlessly buy sequels (you know... there is a X game every 12 months , i didnt know that) and cant complain much, after all we were only going to play the game a little.

The sooner the Industry is rid of people who think in that way, especially those who also are given the task of such an important and difficult task of balancing protection against compatibility, the better.
February 13, 2006 10:28:07 AM

If a publisher can come up with a protection scheme that will take more than 15 minutes to crack a copy then I can assure that this will be enough to protect the majority of cracked copies out there. I am not talking about the initial time to investigate and crack the protection (the challenge that the hackers take on) but I'm talking about the time someone needs to search for the crack on sites, download it, and to install the crack on their particular machine. The increased bandwidth available to the public will lead (or is already leading) to downloading full copies of cracked games.

As long as there is a developer out there that thinks it can come up with such a scheme (making cracking too much of a hassle), then copy protection is here to stay. The argument against the likes of StarForce should not be based on that. The argument should be based on the likelyhood that their copy protection method screws up healthy systems, and that there is no support given to legit customers that encounter problems with their purchased games.

If someone wants to publish games that will not work when well known tools for cracking/hacking are installed, that is their right. It is not their right to screw up systems and no EULA in the world will protect them if they can be proven to be guilty of that. It's just that noone can call a publisher to justice on an individual basis, it's just not feasible. Maybe if a group of disgruntled customers can get their hands on a young and ambitious lawyer, that wants to impress the world, then it may actually work out.
February 13, 2006 1:00:41 PM

For a company to make its game not install if a user has certain programs installed is illegal. This is what the makers of gothic did and they got threated with legal action from the daemon tools team and the gothic team backed down. I also make the point that such a thing as making a game not works against consumer rights, its saying that someone is guilty of a crime becuase they have the tools to commit a crime, although those same tools can be used legally. It also stops the people who commit copyright crime and actually buy a legal game because I think the developers deserve to be rewarded to just go back to piracy.


I have to agree if a publisher could create more of a hassle for the person who actually goes and download the crack it would be much more effective( people are lazy these days :roll: ).

Another sad point these days is that pirate copies and cracked protections are actually alot less prone to crash. Therefore making the pirate copies better then the real thing.
February 13, 2006 1:31:06 PM

I've been compelled to join this forum simply to comment on this article.

I find it to be an absolutely shoddy piece of journalism. In fact, a hesitate to call it journalism, it reads like a forum post or a post from someone's blog rather than a proffessionally written article. I read the entire lot hoping to find some specifics about StarForce problems, but there were none. I then went to read the original article, hoping to hear some of Aaron's 'first hand' experience of Starforce problems, but they just turned out to be 'first hand' experiences of hearing rumours of problems, and some non-specific issue where he apparently needs to rebuild his PC all the time - Was that Star Force related? Why did it happen?

I want facts about this, not a sack of rumours, because if there are problems with games, I want to know before I buy them.

I have 3 games that use Starforce, and they've all worked fine, the only thing I've had a problem with has been the driver not uninstalling with 2 of the games. I have read (on the Star Force site though - but that's something you do not seem to have even bothered to do) that this is down to the game company not implementing their uninstaller correctly, and because it works on one game, I am tempted to believe them regarding this one issue.

Come on, I want a follow up to this article - give me some proof. A real journalist would find a problem, and then get the other side of the story - make a list of proven issues, get a PC you believe Star Force has broken and post it to the company, then interview THEM and hear what they have to say.

I am tired of this shoddy rumour-mill, which gives a fire for misinformers to pour fuel on, and for pirates to use as another justification of what they are doing (whatever happened to just admitting you were a thief and getting on with it? These days everyone wants to proove they've been ripped of by 'big corporations' and 'shoddy sequels' so they can feel they are actually doing something legit.)

Please follow this article up with some real investigation and fact (If I wanted rumours, I'd go on any games forum out there), otherwise it's just another piracy related piece of BS that makes me think all games journalists are pirates with an agenda.
February 13, 2006 1:47:08 PM

Now, where was I last called a pirate... ohh yes....

Quote:
Trawl through the tech support forums of games which use the StarForce system (a list of which can be found here) and you will come across seemingly endless streams of users who have had problems which began after they installed a StarForce protected game. You will also find plenty of people who have had no problems at all, which is where StarForce can lay fair claim to some benefit of the doubt.

Strangely you will also find the odd poster in these discussions who has a near fanatical attitude towards dismissing the claims of others. Odd in itself, but fishy when one considers that StarForce PR employees have been found out whilst posting anonymous comments to stories about the system in places such as Slashdot, seemingly posing as Joe User.
February 13, 2006 2:40:32 PM

As far as I know if you don't mess with the StarForce software, it doesn't mess with you. Having software such as Daemon Tools installed may cause problems.

The fact that starforce opens up your system to other attacks is a total load of crap...

But buying and installing a game you shouldn't have to open yourself up to attacks and vulnerabilities.
February 13, 2006 3:22:27 PM

Just a note. Starforce should not give a shit if I have daemon tools or whatever installed on my system.
Well. However, what I really wanted to say is that someone asked for hands on experiences. Toca2 is a perfect example. It takes about 5 minutes to start and my DVD rom sounds like it's going to explode in my face. Force feedback on makes the game pause every 10 seconds for a short while.

This happened when I bought a new DVD reader/writer.

It's surely a fact that starforce is pure crap and I will never buy a starforceprotected game again. I don't wanna call support. I don't want to search the whole freaking web for help. I want to play my game.

Publishers are just plain stupid. I don't mind protections at all since I'm a quite legal gamer. But I can assure you. I will never buy a SF protected game again.

Argh. Sorry. Long post etc. I just had to write my anger down somewhere. :roll:
February 13, 2006 4:04:27 PM

Since people like to hear real examples of the starforce. I can give you one example:

Purchased 2 starforce games X3 and SplinterCell: Chaos Theory.

My system which is using all non-pirated software and everything is in prime condition. Installed chaos theory using my DVD rom and it worked fine. Installed X3 using my CDROM and it nearly fried my damn system. It started spinning rapidly then it heated my CPU and started a very lovely grinding sound. After that my system promptly crashed. I could reproduce it many times. Tried installing other games (non starforce) through CDROM and it worked. So obviously it points to Starforce (did a series of other tests to pin point it).
Now i decided to investigate this bug(at that point in time i wasnt aware of Starforce). I went to Starforce's website and posted a technical query. What do i get in response? "Are you sure you arent hacking your system" or the equivalent implication. I am just glad my system didnt blow up but if it did, i can see how the company will handle my problem. :evil: 
February 13, 2006 4:10:41 PM

Quote:
As far as I know if you don't mess with the StarForce software, it doesn't mess with you. Having software such as Daemon Tools installed may cause problems.


I agree with minisnail on this. If a publisher doesnt like me running Daemon Tools, then just make sure the game won't run if I have that. Breaking down my system is illegal.

Quote:

The fact that starforce opens up your system to other attacks is a total load of crap...

But buying and installing a game you shouldn't have to open yourself up to attacks and vulnerabilities.


Where is your proof/evidence? There have been posts on the net with substantial (if circumstantial) evidence claiming the above. Just saying it isnt true, is not enough.
February 13, 2006 4:12:43 PM

Quote:
Now i decided to investigate this bug(at that point in time i wasnt aware of Starforce). I went to Starforce's website and posted a technical query. What do i get in response? "Are you sure you arent hacking your system" or the equivalent implication. I am just glad my system didnt blow up but if it did, i can see how the company will handle my problem. :evil: 


Why did you go to StarForce if you weren't aware of it? Did you go to the publisher of X3 and SplinterCell Chaos Theory first? If so, what did they say? I really think it's the responsibility of publishers to fix this mess instead of directly transferring complaining customers to StarForce directly.
February 13, 2006 4:16:58 PM

Ohhh yes, I am going to go all the way to Moscow to prove to the retards at Starforce that they are screwing over my computer. (yes thats sarcasm)

I am sorry that i dont feel like repeating the experiment of burning out my CDROM and CPU repeatedly, not to mention WHY SHOULD SINCE I AM PAYING FOR A PRODUCT.

Yes in the end the use of the product itself should be blamed on the publisher, but the makers should at least take the complaints seriously.

unlike the "company stuffing its ears and singing "LALALALA!" at the top of its voice" (could not stop laughing at this comment as it seems to be so true)
February 13, 2006 4:20:28 PM

Clarification on my part:( for BigMac)

Due to the process being long..yes i went there(X3 and splintercell site first). Then submitted problem there. No response, so read around and found out very similiar if not exact problems from other users....eventually deduced Starforce as a probability.

It was long and painful search and test process.

Like i said though, DVDrom works fine with no problem, even for X3, however the moment i use my CDROM ..poof!
February 13, 2006 5:06:24 PM

Apparently if you kick up enough of a fuss, pin StarForce to a wall and give them no other option they can give you a very complicated work around... but i dont know if it's worth the bother, X3 is quite buggy in other ways, and hard to get into.
February 13, 2006 6:22:17 PM

Hello all...

One footnote to Aaron's article.

You can no longer find me at Ubisoft's forum. Moments after Aaron's article hit the net I was banned from the forum.

What I find insane about this, is they came up with a fake reason for banning me, that I won't get into.

Another comical thing is Ubisoft knows every move I make practically, Why? Because I am in touch with them by email ever since they and I started the Starforce Investigation. They knew Aarons article was coming out as I emailed them the date, they had full knowledge of this.

Sound like a coincedence that I got banned? Maybe....but I think not.

You can find me in many forums...
Read about my banning here: http://www.glop.org/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=1082#p1082


Take care all,

Soulcommander
Larry


P.S. Spoke with Ubisoft today....They stated the following:
Unfortunatly, we do not have ANY control over the forums. All that stuff is handled by another department entirely.
February 13, 2006 11:58:22 PM

SpyBoy --nice name for a starforce spy :) 
February 14, 2006 8:04:08 AM

Quote:
Now, where was I last called a pirate... ohh yes....

I wasn't calling you a pirate (ok, I did say that, sorry, a sweeping generalisation...), primarily a was saying your article lacks integrity because you a reporting on hearsay, not on any demonstrable fact which you yourself have had any experience of - and honestly, how hard would it be to write a follow up where you at least demonstrate a few ways to cripple a machine entirely using starforce if it's so easy to do? I note that your reply was to dismiss my comments and suggest I work for StarForce, and state that any forum for a game using starforce is full of such posts - but that's just my problem, they are all choc full of people whining about stuff, but nobody actually saying, with this DVD writer, and this game, and Starforce, I have X problem. Again, I think that was demonstrating a lack of care in your writing - it wouldn't have been difficult to write a reply that addressed my concerns about the article, rather than taking a cheap shot at my own integrity for writing what I did.

All you seem to have done is clouded the issue even more, and I'd have liked to have seen you put questions to StarForce - did you even ask to interview them?

I'll give one example - there's mentions of security issues, and this worries me too. Now, the starforce website says they have paid the guy who discovered the Sony rootkits to investigate it, and he ok'd it, but I'd rather have more detail than that - and some independent research by tomsharware would be something I'd trust.

Quote:
SpyBoy --nice name for a starforce spy :) 

It's also the name of a comic I like :)  (like yours?)
It's a easy to suggest I'm working for them, or that I am fanatically defending them - but I'm not. If you re-read my post, you'll find (I hope) that I'm attacking the method behind this article as not being up to the usual standards of tomshardware - dealing with rumour rather than fact. I'd like someone to get to the bottom of the issues like everyone else is doing, rather than just gossiping more.
I genuinely would like to see this article written, and am just throwing in my lone vote.
February 14, 2006 8:34:46 AM

Read my first article, and you'll see that I did comment on it. For example drives locking up, requiring that one logs out of Windows in order to be able to open them. My thinking on StarForce is not fashioned by anyone else - merely reinforced by the fact that I was not the only person to have trouble with it. Being a game reviewer in a previous life I also had opportunity to test it on multiple games across multiple machines. Therefore saying that my evidence is circumstantial and based on hearsay is mute.

As for security, read into what happens when Ring access is opened up. I explained it briefly, but I'm sure there's plenty of other articles to go into greater depth about it. The fact that opening such access causes major holes is not disputed by anyone, I think.
February 14, 2006 8:36:44 AM

Much better piece than your previous one, SpyBoy.

For me personally it is not so much about the technical solution that the publishers have chosen to go (with help from their supplier StarForce), but about their lack of support and responsibility in the matter. Given the fact that StarForce must have a rather large distribution already (if you check out the game list, there must be millions of PCs out there having StarForce in their system). So it's not technological rubbish, however it is a rather dangerous approach, even if only 1% of all systems is malfunctioning and just 10% of that is again crippled, then we're still talking thousands of customers out there that are severly damaged by this approach. Although this may seem like an acceptable cost to the publishers, you can imagine that these customers think differently, and the least the publishers can do is provide good support to that 1% that has issues.

However, lots of these customers complain that although they are legitimate owners of the software they get accusations that they are hacking. First of all, having tools like Alcohol120% on your system is not hacking. Publishers may not like it, they can prohibit their software to run on systems that have software on it Publishers don't like, but they cannot condone that their security measures actually cripple systems or make these systems insecure.

In this race between pirates and publishers I have sympathy and understanding that sometimes technologies are used that later are found not to be up to the task or impaired or whatever. The least one can expect is good service once you are victimized by that as a legitimate customer. If publishers cannot bring themselves to do that but instead spend time to battle the bad publicity that they're getting by harrassing some journalists out there that are writing about it, they are practically driving people towards the pirates. Believe me, I have utter disrespect for pirates and I all my games are legit and that is why I'm so vehemently against the attitude (some) publishers and StarForce are displaying today. I hope they get their act together before it's too late.
February 14, 2006 12:33:51 PM

Quote:
I've been compelled to join this forum simply to comment on this article.

I find it to be an absolutely shoddy piece of journalism. In fact, a hesitate to call it journalism, it reads like a forum post or a post from someone's blog rather than a proffessionally written article. I read the entire lot hoping to find some specifics about StarForce problems, but there were none. I then went to read the original article, hoping to hear some of Aaron's 'first hand' experience of Starforce problems, but they just turned out to be 'first hand' experiences of hearing rumours of problems, and some non-specific issue where he apparently needs to rebuild his PC all the time - Was that Star Force related? Why did it happen?

I want facts about this, not a sack of rumours, because if there are problems with games, I want to know before I buy them.

I have 3 games that use Starforce, and they've all worked fine, the only thing I've had a problem with has been the driver not uninstalling with 2 of the games. I have read (on the Star Force site though - but that's something you do not seem to have even bothered to do) that this is down to the game company not implementing their uninstaller correctly, and because it works on one game, I am tempted to believe them regarding this one issue.

Come on, I want a follow up to this article - give me some proof. A real journalist would find a problem, and then get the other side of the story - make a list of proven issues, get a PC you believe Star Force has broken and post it to the company, then interview THEM and hear what they have to say.

I am tired of this shoddy rumour-mill, which gives a fire for misinformers to pour fuel on, and for pirates to use as another justification of what they are doing (whatever happened to just admitting you were a thief and getting on with it? These days everyone wants to proove they've been ripped of by 'big corporations' and 'shoddy sequels' so they can feel they are actually doing something legit.)

Please follow this article up with some real investigation and fact (If I wanted rumours, I'd go on any games forum out there), otherwise it's just another piracy related piece of BS that makes me think all games journalists are pirates with an agenda.



I have to agree, the article is without substance. I came here from a link in the subsim.com forums to read the piece and it says nothing new, just tries to be cute. There is a lot of jumping on the bandwagon and rumor-spreading concerning Starforce. I completely support a publisher's right to add copyprotection to their products. Who can blame them? They want to get paid for their work and too many of us feel if we can get it for free, then we should.

I suspect a lot of anti-SF fanatics are people who routinely copy software and SF has interfered with these activities. Others are following the anti-SF call simply because they need something to do with their time and they enjoy opposing "the Man" and this fanaticism makes up for their lack of social life, libido, etc. I would be sympathetic and even supportive of anti-SF protesters if there was any real evidence that it is disruptive to a sizeable number of people (not just a few people with oddball configs, that happens with all software). I have a couple Ubisoft games (Silent Hunter 3 among them) on my system, two DVD burners, the Nero software that came with them, and I have not experienced any problems at all. I've ripped and burned music CDs from my MSN Music account, burned DVDs with files and backup material from my hard drive. I have not tried to copy SH3, I'm responsible enough to take care of the discs. I do not buy the lame "I don't like to use my CDs" or "It's too much trouble to change the disc out when I play a game" excuses for CD cracks and copying. That's BS, plain and simple.

You pay the money, you buy the game, you get the CDs that the game is on, you play the game. That's all you get for your money. If your dog eats your game CD, get rid of the f***ing dog and stop whining.
February 14, 2006 12:51:27 PM

Quote:
There is a lot of jumping on the bandwagon and rumor-spreading concerning Starforce.

It was a bandwagon we jumped on in October 2005, before there was a bandwagon if I recall. It was certainly pre-boycott starforce and the current media wave.

Quote:
I completely support a publisher's right to add copyprotection to their products. Who can blame them? They want to get paid for their work

I agree - but as I said, there has to be a line drawn between helping them and hurting us.

Quote:
I suspect a lot of anti-SF fanatics are people who routinely copy software and SF has interfered with these activities.

Funny, StarForce PR would agree with you. Personally I'd say that's a nice smokescreen. One can find pirated versions of SF protected games which, ironically, come without SF and avoid all the problems it causes. In order words, SF may cause the opposite of what it's supposed to.

Quote:
Others are following the anti-SF call simply because they need something to do with their time and they enjoy opposing "the Man" and this fanaticism makes up for their lack of social life, libido, etc.

Well now, :roll: is all I can say to that. Are people beginning to see my devoted poster point in the article?
February 14, 2006 1:01:25 PM

Please read my previous posts in this topic so you understand where I'coming from, before reading my reaction on your remarks.

Quote:

I have to agree, the article is without substance. I came here from a link in the subsim.com forums to read the piece and it says nothing new, just tries to be cute. There is a lot of jumping on the bandwagon and rumor-spreading concerning Starforce. I completely support a publisher's right to add copyprotection to their products. Who can blame them? They want to get paid for their work and too many of us feel if we can get it for free, then we should.


Apparently there can be disagreement on what substance means but to each his/her own, so no problem there.

Quote:

I suspect a lot of anti-SF fanatics are people who routinely copy software and SF has interfered with these activities. Others are following the anti-SF call simply because they need something to do with their time and they enjoy opposing "the Man" and this fanaticism makes up for their lack of social life, libido, etc.

Now look who's being insubstantial here. Complete and utter bullocks, mr.
Maybe you could substantiate your suspicion instead of crying wolf.

Quote:

I would be sympathetic and even supportive of anti-SF protesters if there was any real evidence that it is disruptive to a sizeable number of people (not just a few people with oddball configs, that happens with all software). I have a couple Ubisoft games (Silent Hunter 3 among them) on my system, two DVD burners, the Nero software that came with them, and I have not experienced any problems at all. I've ripped and burned music CDs from my MSN Music account, burned DVDs with files and backup material from my hard drive. I have not tried to copy SH3, I'm responsible enough to take care of the discs.

So now you are the golden standard of regular usage and your system is the norm? I hope you read my previous post where I made plausible that there's a lot of innocent consumers out there, that are victim of molested systems. Just rejoice in the fact that you are one of the 99% (positive estimate perhaps) population that has no problems, but that gives you no right whatsoever to judge the remaining 1% to be pirates and hackers. Please change the exact percentages to your liking but the general gist of it remains the same.

The amount of first hand reports on the net, if you care to look for them that is, is just too big to be bogus. Discard all the second hand info all you want, there is just too many people with issues out there, people that honestly claim they bought the product. You want to call all of them pirates (sure there will be illegal owners amongst them, so what?), well then you won't mind me calling all of you that try to defend these copyprotection practices than can wreck hardware, trolls either then. Of course just meant to make a point, which is, do not judge people without specific data on the cases, either way (not when standing up for publisher rights but also not when bringing up the to many unacceptable downside of the measures either).
February 14, 2006 1:05:13 PM

Quote:
Well now, :roll: is all I can say to that. Are people beginning to see my devoted poster point in the article?


When comparing SpyBoy's posts with Stuka I'd say Stuka is a lot more suspect. However, I try to avoid to be judgemental so hopefully he can find the time to post some replies, so that we can see what he's made of.
February 14, 2006 1:16:47 PM

Quote:
There is a lot of jumping on the bandwagon and rumor-spreading concerning Starforce.

It was a bandwagon we jumped on in October 2005, before there was a bandwagon if I recall. It was certainly pre-boycott starforce and the current media wave.

Like I said, I've been reading squawking about this on other forum months before October 2005. Neither you nor Tom's Hardware did not create this movement.


If the SF executives had any sense, they would set up an offer to check the alleged problems some people are claiming. If I was directing it, it would go like this: Big PR stating SF is concerned and will work with gamers to check out these "CD whirring issues" and "phantom CD recorder lockups". Any gamer who has experienced problems with SF, simply submit a trouble ticket with name, address, and phone number. SF will select a gamer from random and fly a couple of their techs directly to the home of a user with a complaint and check it out. On short notice, of course, lol. Then we would see some serious action. "Here's your problem, sir, you have a host of xxxxx programs that are used for pirating software and SF will not allow the game to run or install under these conditions. Oh, and btw, nice collection of pirated games you have there, sir."

cheers :) 
February 14, 2006 1:21:11 PM

Quote:
Well now, :roll: is all I can say to that. Are people beginning to see my devoted poster point in the article?


When comparing SpyBoy's posts with Stuka I'd say Stuka is a lot more suspect. However, I try to avoid to be judgemental so hopefully he can find the time to post some replies, so that we can see what he's made of.

I understand you would wonder about my affiliation but for what it's worth, I am not part of SF or a game developer/publisher. Just an interested reader.
February 14, 2006 1:22:24 PM

Quote:
Neither you nor Tom's Hardware did not create this movement.

That's correct, but we're not only now "jumping on the bandwagon" either.

As for your second point, I think you're taking the piss somewhat, no? If you've been viewing the SF issue you'd know they already did something like that, but most of the media - including myself in the article we're currently discussing - dismissed it as the rules basically say "You find the problem, you come to Moscow, show us and we'll decide if it is a problem or not" - not so good considering how SF dismisses most claims out of hand as it is.

I think The Inquirer's Nick Farrell summed it up nicely with the headline and strap when the competition ended and SF claimed victory: StarForce claims victory over complaints - That will stop them happening
February 14, 2006 1:26:35 PM

Quote:
Well now, :roll: is all I can say to that. Are people beginning to see my devoted poster point in the article?


When comparing SpyBoy's posts with Stuka I'd say Stuka is a lot more suspect. However, I try to avoid to be judgemental so hopefully he can find the time to post some replies, so that we can see what he's made of.

I understand you would wonder about my affiliation but for what it's worth, I am not part of SF or a game developer/publisher. Just an interested reader.
After having heard that a hundred and one times in many forums, and gone so far as to see StarForce PR chaps ousted as posting as "interested readers" on Slashdot, you may forgive me for being a tad sceptical. I don't like to go on a witch hunt, but as I said in the article it is a little odd how people who've had no trouble with StarForce then become such devoted fans of dismissing those who claim they have, in rather similar posts rather regularly across forums and threads.
February 14, 2006 1:28:03 PM

Quote:

I understand you would wonder about my affiliation but for what it's worth, I am not part of SF or a game developer/publisher. Just an interested reader.


Good to get that out of the way. I take your word for it. Could you do me the courtesy then of reading my post before last (where I responded to your first post) and let me know what you think of that?
February 14, 2006 1:32:42 PM

Quote:
If the SF executives had any sense, they would set up an offer to check the alleged problems some people are claiming. If I was directing it, it would go like this: Big PR stating SF is concerned and will work with gamers to check out these "CD whirring issues" and "phantom CD recorder lockups". Any gamer who has experienced problems with SF, simply submit a trouble ticket with name, address, and phone number. SF will select a gamer from random and fly a couple of their techs directly to the home of a user with a complaint and check it out. On short notice, of course, lol. Then we would see some serious action. "Here's your problem, sir, you have a host of xxxxx programs that are used for pirating software and SF will not allow the game to run or install under these conditions. Oh, and btw, nice collection of pirated games you have there, sir."

cheers :) 


But that is exactly the point. Either these StarForce executives do not have any sense, or they have something to hide. Those are the only two explanations I can come up with to explain their behavior in this matter.

You have to admit that either explanation does not look like good news to the publishers. And as I wrote earlier, I think the publishers need to take first responsibility in the matter. They have decided to use StarForce as a supplier for their product security, and they should now take the lead in clearing up all the confusion.
February 14, 2006 1:35:05 PM

I don't know what "taking the piss" means and I have not been following the SF issue, so you probably know a lot more about the "issue" than me. I do know, how people in forums behave and there is a herd mentality when it comes to causes. I did read about the "come to Moscow and show us" offer, which I agree, is stupid. Does SF think a guy from San Diego would fly into Shermatavo Intl., hop in a cab and show SF their problem? Too much crime in Russia, you might end up in the Mosckva. I was daydreaming a "better" and much more entertaining offer :) . But I doubt a. anyone would allow an "inspection team" to pop up on short notice or b. SF has enough imagination to enact an offer like that. Certainly, if there were real problems with legit gamers using SF protected games, SF could benefit from the investigation. Anyway, that would make a great relaity series but I know it would never happen.
February 14, 2006 2:12:25 PM

Quote:


I would be sympathetic and even supportive of anti-SF protesters if there was any real evidence that it is disruptive to a sizeable number of people (not just a few people with oddball configs, that happens with all software). I have a couple Ubisoft games (Silent Hunter 3 among them) on my system, two DVD burners, the Nero software that came with them, and I have not experienced any problems at all. I've ripped and burned music CDs from my MSN Music account, burned DVDs with files and backup material from my hard drive. I have not tried to copy SH3, I'm responsible enough to take care of the discs.

So now you are the golden standard of regular usage and your system is the norm? I hope you read my previous post where I made plausible that there's a lot of innocent consumers out there, that are victim of molested systems. Just rejoice in the fact that you are one of the 99% (positive estimate perhaps) population that has no problems, but that gives you no right whatsoever to judge the remaining 1% to be pirates and hackers. Please change the exact percentages to your liking but the general gist of it remains the same.

The amount of first hand reports on the net, if you care to look for them that is, is just too big to be bogus. Discard all the second hand info all you want, there is just too many people with issues out there, people that honestly claim they bought the product. You want to call all of them pirates (sure there will be illegal owners amongst them, so what?), well then you won't mind me calling all of you that try to defend these copyprotection practices than can wreck hardware, trolls either then. Of course just meant to make a point, which is, do not judge people without specific data on the cases, either way (not when standing up for publisher rights but also not when bringing up the to many unacceptable downside of the measures either).

I have no way of knowing if there are 500 plausible legit users claiming they have molested systems and it really is due to SF, or if there are 500 legit gamers who have PC problems and they are blaming it on SF, or if there are 500 game-copying users who are unhappy that SF does not allow them to pirate games, or if there is some mix of all above. Reading about SF from a number of anonymous posters in forums ("first hand reports on the net") does not tell me much, I know that. I also know that there are a LOT of people who copy games and apps and share them, distribute them, and rip off game companies. I'm not pro-SF, per se. And if some users who are non-pirates could get Cnet, PC Magazine, or some third party accountability to validate their claims, I would throw my support behind their cause. So, in conclusion, I suggest you guys write Windows Magazine or PC Monthly and urge them to do an evaluation. It would make great reading, and should shed some real light on the subject.
February 14, 2006 2:13:52 PM

Quote:


But that is exactly the point. Either these StarForce executives do not have any sense, or they have something to hide. Those are the only two explanations I can come up with to explain their behavior in this matter.

You have to admit that either explanation does not look like good news to the publishers. And as I wrote earlier, I think the publishers need to take first responsibility in the matter. They have decided to use StarForce as a supplier for their product security, and they should now take the lead in clearing up all the confusion.


Yeah, I agree with that. If I was a publisher who used SF, I would have some independant tests run and I would make sure my PR guys spread the word.
February 14, 2006 3:01:56 PM

Quote:
Read my first article, and you'll see that I did comment on it.

True, you did and I missed it. :oops: 
I think it would help though if you illustrated the cases in detail, as they are still little more than passing comments. If you can say (which, based on your drive lockup, and media player comments, you should be able to?), that you have a computer, and it exhibits a list of problems which you are certain were caused by StarForce, then can you send that to the Starforce makers and ask them to comment on it? I noted with amusement your link to an article at Starforce's site where they are bashing you - it seems they are capable of responding, so why not set them the challenge? That's what I really want to see - the second they won't comment, then as far as I'm concerned, there are problems.

Quote:
One can find pirated versions of SF protected games which, ironically, come without SF and avoid all the problems it causes.

Sigh - I know you, and probably nobody here will agree with what I think here, but I think comments like that harm your credibility simply because it makes you sound like a pirate. Now, I don't mean that as an attack on you even though I can't avoid it sounding that way; what I mean is that it makes your article suffer.
February 14, 2006 3:07:51 PM

Quote:

Sigh - I know you, and probably nobody here will agree with what I think here, but I think comments like that harm your credibility simply because it makes you sound like a pirate. Now, I don't mean that as an attack on you even though I can't avoid it sounding that way; what I mean is that it makes your article suffer.

I reject the premise of your argument - from what you say, you presume that I'm advocating this piracy. I'm not. I'm pointing out that it exists.
February 14, 2006 4:37:47 PM

Quote:

Sigh - I know you, and probably nobody here will agree with what I think here, but I think comments like that harm your credibility simply because it makes you sound like a pirate. Now, I don't mean that as an attack on you even though I can't avoid it sounding that way; what I mean is that it makes your article suffer.

I reject the premise of your argument - from what you say, you presume that I'm advocating this piracy. I'm not. I'm pointing out that it exists.


Ok, help me understand what you mean by this:
Quote:
For note, I see things from certain publishers and I know off the top of my head that they'll have StarForce (or similar) onboard and it's time to crack out to imaging software.


thanks
February 14, 2006 5:17:21 PM

Quote:
One can find pirated versions of SF protected games which, ironically, come without SF and avoid all the problems it causes.

Sigh - I know you, and probably nobody here will agree with what I think here, but I think comments like that harm your credibility simply because it makes you sound like a pirate. Now, I don't mean that as an attack on you even though I can't avoid it sounding that way; what I mean is that it makes your article suffer.
You are like a glasswindow. Trying to hide it. I didn't loose any credibility what so ever in Aaron but I sure got really afraid of you, SpyBoy.

And for the records. Yes, I buy 100% of the games I intend to play >1 hour. Atleast until now and the Toca2 experience.
Sounds kinda weird, doesn't it? Being the strongest copyprotection and all.
It should make the publishers think twice about getting a new protection.

If I really wan't a game which unfortunately is SF protected it will be avaible in a "SF free" version. Correct me if I'm wrong but I thing there are atleast 2 crackergroups out there now who can successfully crack latest SF version.
February 14, 2006 6:52:01 PM

Quote:

Ok, help me understand what you mean by this:
For note, I see things from certain publishers and I know off the top of my head that they'll have StarForce (or similar) onboard and it's time to crack out to imaging software.


thanks
Would you remind me where I said that? I want to jar my memory and can't for the life of me recall where I wrote it (don't doubt that I did, but I want to put it into context.)
February 14, 2006 7:54:59 PM

Quote:

And for the records. Yes, I buy 100% of the games I intend to play >1 hour. Atleast until now and the Toca2 experience.


So you steal the games you intend to play less than an hour?

Quote:

If I really wan't a game which unfortunately is SF protected it will be avaible in a "SF free" version. Correct me if I'm wrong but I thing there are atleast 2 crackergroups out there now who can successfully crack latest SF version.


Well, when publishers come out with SF on steroids, we will have people like you to thank.
February 14, 2006 7:58:53 PM

Quote:

Ok, help me understand what you mean by this:
For note, I see things from certain publishers and I know off the top of my head that they'll have StarForce (or similar) onboard and it's time to crack out to imaging software.


thanks
Would you remind me where I said that? I want to jar my memory and can't for the life of me recall where I wrote it (don't doubt that I did, but I want to put it into context.)

It was in this thread, Aaron:
http://forumz.tomshardware.com/games/War-Game-Pirates-S...

I'm not sure what you mean by "imaging software", maybe you meant it tongue-in-cheek.
February 14, 2006 9:25:06 PM

Quote:
So you steal the games you intend to play less than an hour?

Yes! Cause thats the answer you guys want. But it just doesn't work that way.
I will give you an example. Live for speed is a game I never heard of. Suddenly it was presented in a cracked version. "Whats this?" I ask myself and took a closer look. "YAY. What a game". About 2 days later I had uninstalled the game, bought myself a license and installed the legit gamefiles.
You'll see, many of the games are just pure crap. I rather check them out for 30 minutes than take a chance and pay alot of money.
(And in this case, the live for speed team actually got one more customer)

Quote:
Well, when publishers come out with SF on steroids, we will have people like you to thank.

And we have people like you to thank for not giving decent people a rest. Fucking up our computers and virtually, makes the software unplayable.
I still can't play Toca2. Loadingtimes 5 minutes or more, DVD reader sounds like it's going to break. All my other (not SF protected legal software) works just like it's supposed to.

Personally I don't give a crap about the protection since I do buy my software but if the protection messes too much I am forced to the "SF free version".

To satisfy you even more. I recently got intressest in flying. I knew I had a copy of fs2004 somewhere and installed it. Hmm. After a short while I realized that I will play this many many hours. I bought a legit copy some days later and reinstalled it all. Now I have to have the CD in the drive while I play. Quite annoying, but I can live with that. Most people can. But we will never accept something that messes up hardware or simply makes your computer instable.

Go ahead.. Make SF on steroids and you'll soon find SF totally out of business.

Edit Added some more I forgot.
February 14, 2006 11:37:52 PM

Quote:
I reject the premise of your argument - from what you say, you presume that I'm advocating this piracy. I'm not. I'm pointing out that it exists.


I'm not saying that, and to be honest, I regret opening my mouth, because it was a futile statement. Basically I believe that when you say that, you expose yourself to everyone who works in the games industry thinking about you in a specific way. Mainly because you go into specifics about how long it took cracks to come out, not simply that you are aware piracy exists - i.e. (right or wrong) I'm now thinking - what possible reason could he have to know that other than he knew how long it took to get a cracked copy of a game he'd been waiting for.

Now - that's an awful, and completely unsubstantiated claim, and I regret even typing this. I am just saying that this is the opinion I now have of you based soley on those statement. It's likely I'm jaded so I apologise.

I wouldn't think the average games player would think any differently though - just anyone who might be in a position to ok the purchase of Starforce for their company - ie - the people you want to take you seriously.

Can I just apologise to Aaron, because I've fallen into an antagonistic line of questioning which I generally try to avoid. I'll just say, and leave my thoughts at this - my one vote would be to please follow this up with examples of problems sent to both Starforce's makers and the companies involved. That way, we'll get to the bottom of it all, and if this system is truly rubbish, it'll either get fixed, or dropped and we'll all be happy.

Quote:
You are like a glasswindow. Trying to hide it. I didn't loose any credibility what so ever in Aaron but I sure got really afraid of you, SpyBoy.

Really? Sorry :)  . I'm not sure if there's anything I am trying to hide, or what impression I've left you with, I'm just questioning this article, because it seems to me (but I guess I'm in the minority reading the rest of the responses :)  ) to be missing a huge chunk of the story. I don't believe everything that's put in front of me, but that doesn't mean I'm defending this copy protection system.
February 15, 2006 6:31:01 AM

Hi all,

I thought I would drop in and add my support for concerning these articles.

Lets deal with some misconceptions.

Boycott Starforce is not trying to Destroy the industry (They seem to be doing that quite well on their own), we are in fact attempting to liaise and work with the industry to address the problems created by TrojanKits.

TrojanKits:

1. Security Applications installed without end user consent.
2. Software that grants Ring 0 access to Ring 3 (user level) applications.
3. Interferes with other software such as virtual drives, SCSI/SATA etc.
4. Puts its own virtual protection drivers on the system.
5. Interferes with other applications Windows registry settings.
6. Can be exploited with replacement malicious versions to grant Full Ring 0 access.

This definition was put together to deal with a range of issues that have been raised in which peeps keep saying "But SF is not a rootkit" as if that justified the problem that peeps are experiencing.


To show how productive we are in trying to help correct these issues. I even have Root Admin on Starforce’s own Tech support forums quoting my workarounds.

Nerva quoting me

Getting back to the issue at hand, without intentionally scaremongering, TrojanKits potentially represent such a major security issue that I really cannot understand why the Industry is being so complacent about this.

As they got all the information from some of the best/worst (it according to your perspective on the issue) guys in the Field at the recent Black Hat Conference in Washington DC.

In the case of Starforce, this uses ingenious yet overly complex ways of verifying original content. In programming terms I give them credit for a clever process, but for anybody to expect such complex Disk I/O management to work in the real world of the Diverse hardware platform that is the PC. Is sadly mistaken. It’s a catalogue of errors just waiting to happen.

Those of you within the industry, should get Security Technologies to explain to you just how Starforce works, you may then understand just how impractical this is to really use. Heck it make be robust enough to last 6 hours to 6 weeks in a crackers hands, but it is not stable enough to actually allow your genuine customers access their legitimately purchased Software.

As the information on how SF works is copyrighted I cannot go into any details here, buts lets say that just one tiny section of it. Has an algorithm so complex that it would fill several A4 pages. Each part of this relates to I/O of data from the disk. Even allowing for normal errors that occur in disk transfers SF is so critical on data being in a precise place/read timing that it keeps checking time and time again. Repeated attempts are eventually detected by XP as being disk I/O errors which results in IDE DMA step down. The issue that is referred to in the aforementioned post.

As you can see from this example where possible, as we become aware of an issue we work to try and resolve that problem.

However as disks degrade from usage(more read errors) or it becomes “Not financially viable” to support these DRM’s peeps will be left with non functional games, Not because the Games does not work, but instead the DRM is not compatible with their new OS pack or some new hardware.

It does not take a peeps like me that has been in the industry for over 1/4 of Century to tell you that this is a time bomb of issues just waiting to go off.
February 15, 2006 7:42:57 AM

Quote:
I'm not saying that, and to be honest, I regret opening my mouth, because it was a futile statement. Basically I believe that when you say that, you expose yourself to everyone who works in the games industry thinking about you in a specific way. Mainly because you go into specifics about how long it took cracks to come out, not simply that you are aware piracy exists - i.e. (right or wrong) I'm now thinking - what possible reason could he have to know that other than he knew how long it took to get a cracked copy of a game he'd been waiting for.

Now - that's an awful, and completely unsubstantiated claim, and I regret even typing this. I am just saying that this is the opinion I now have of you based soley on those statement. It's likely I'm jaded so I apologise.

Simple answer: I'm a journalist. If you want to be able to report on something, you have to understand the subject. I know about piracy and how it works because I've investigated it, and spoken to people from crackers to the security experts fighting them, and I know where one can find cracked games.

This does not make me a pirate however, just as the security experts who fight them know their tricks. It's also the same as a journalist who understands the drug trade - he or she understands it so that they can report on it, not because they're drug dealers.

Quote:
It was in this thread, Aaron:
http://forumz.tomshardware.com/games/War-Game-Pirates-S...

I'm not sure what you mean by "imaging software", maybe you meant it tongue-in-cheek.

I meant imaging software as in making an image of your computer, so that it can be backed up to the point just before installing SF, not imaging the game.
February 15, 2006 9:22:19 AM

Quote:

I will give you an example. Live for speed is a game I never heard of. Suddenly it was presented in a cracked version. "Whats this?" I ask myself and took a closer look. "YAY. What a game". About 2 days later I had uninstalled the game, bought myself a license and installed the legit gamefiles.
You'll see, many of the games are just pure crap. I rather check them out for 30 minutes than take a chance and pay alot of money.
(And in this case, the live for speed team actually got one more customer)


This may look sympathetic to many, but I vehemently disapprove of it. If a publisher wants you to try their product for free, then he will provide you with a demo. If there isn't one, then apparently he doesnt want to (yet) and so you have no business trying out an illegal version of that game.

I can fully understand your doubts about buying in the blind, but then you just have to restrict yourself to games that have demo's. Using illegal versions to try out the software is opening the gates to hell.

Personally I would like a model where you can download the game, play it for an hour or so (which is more than enough to get the impression of a game, is my personal experience) and when you continue playing longer, then you're (automatically) charged. Noone is providing it yet but maybe some day. ValvE had a free play Day of Defeat weekend last week. That's a good way of trying out stuf for free.

There is no way in which you will be able to determine whether you get enough playing hours out of game to justify the purchasing costs but that is just a gamble you will have to take, as with so many products and services out there that you are paying for right now. Also what is enough? What is good enough? Those are subjective values that vary per person, and just every person out there making up their own minds whether they should pay or not is just not going to work. On the contrary as can be seen nowadays a lot of people (I'm afraid it's even the majority although I don't have the data to prove it) will just not pay period when they can steal it for free, regardless whether they liked the game or not.

A bunch of people worked their butts off on a game and they deserve to earn an honest buck out of it. Let the commercial system do its job, if it is crap, noone will buy from them again, if it's good they'll come back for more. If you don't agree with the price, don't buy and wait till it's cheaper. If you don't want to burn yourself with a first time developer, then wait till there is enough buzz about the game and decide then or wait for their second game.
February 15, 2006 11:08:03 AM

I agree with BigMac. Too many people seem to think that it is their right to "test" the full game free-of-charge and decide by their standards if it's good enough to warrant a purchase. This is not a God-Given right, and it remains illegal. Sure you can say publishers might hide a naff game by not releasing a demo, but read the reviews and listen to others opinions. The law is the law.
February 15, 2006 11:59:34 AM

I agree with both of you. I forgot to mention that I am 30 years old and have some sort of common sense by now. Also I work as a programmer myself.
The problem is that people just don't understand that the game isn't autogenerated. It's made by real people. People with families and with mouths to feed.

I was a little bit annoyed when I wrote my last post but ofcourse, I always try the demo if there is a demo. It's alot safer since cracked programs/games could hide viruses/trojans and other bad stuff while demos should be considered as safe, aswell having a descent uninstall function.

However. I wish that you had answered my other part instead since the first part was pure piracy which we all in one way or another don't like. It is a crime and should NEVER be considered as a gods right to check out games that way. But its reality.

It seems like the supply side just cannot accept it. Not even talk about it. Not do anything rational besides express their hatred. I think publishers should try some different approaches. Cheaper prizes for once. Alternatives to CD/DVD like direct download alá Steam by valve.
I just love steam. It always keep my software updated and at the same time I don't have to have the CD in the drive.

It's just so scary that publishers do exactly the same thing as the musicindustry did. Learn from their mistakes I say. 5 years ago most of us realized that only selling CD is history. There must be other ways like selling mp3s. Make easy searchable libraries. No no. The industry invested big money in hunting individuals, hiding rootkits on music CDs (like SONY) and spit their hatred on the pirates.

I just can't understand this deja vu. Talk to the pirates. Give them alternatives. Stop hunting them and forcing them to have CDs in the drive, installing hidden drivers on their computers and trying to ruin their lives.

Nothing beats the satisfaction of having a licensed software. You can ask for support, easy updates and you won't have to worry about a possible trojan.

Unfortunately this post is more about piracy than about starforce. Sorry.
My point remains tho. Protect my software with anything. Just don't use starforce since it ruined one of my games already and I'm terrifyed to buy another SF protected game.
!