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The Awful Anti-Pirate System That Will Probably Work

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the an-opposing-arrrrrgument dept.

Piracy 1027

spidweb writes "Much virtual ink has been spilled over Ubisoft's new, harsh DRM system for Assassin's Creed 2. You must have a constant internet connection, and, if your connection breaks, the game exits. While this has angered many (and justifiably so), most writers on the topic have made an error. They think that this system, like all DRM systems in the past, will be easily broken. This article explains why, as dreadful as the system is, it does have a chance of holding hackers off long enough for the game to make its money. As such it is, if nothing else, a fascinating experiment. From the article: 'Assassin's Creed 2 is different in a key way. Remember, all of its code for saving and loading games (a significant feature, I'm sure you would agree) is tied into logging into a distant server and sending data back and forth. This vital and complex bit of code has been written from the ground up to require having the saved games live on a machine far away, with said machine being programmed to accept, save, and return the game data. This is a far more difficult problem for a hacker to circumvent.'"

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Sweet spot (5, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297504)

It's all about finding the sweet spot. DRM is invariably going to piss of a certain number of paying users but if you piss off too many you lose revenue, or worse yet, if your product gets a rep for being unreliable ... you're throwing away potential customers. DRM is a risky game to play, and if you're gonna do it you better make damn sure it works.

Re:Sweet spot (5, Insightful)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297550)

Considering that DRM never works yet always pisses off some consumers, wouldn't the sweet spot then be no DRM?

Rob

Re:Sweet spot (2, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297568)

You know what works. Viruses and trojans.

I don't pirate because I don't want viruses or trojans.

Re:Sweet spot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297598)

you know what doesn't work? niggers.

Re:Sweet spot (4, Insightful)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297898)

Oh Powers that Be, can we please have a hate speech mod so we can still browse at -1 for moderating purposes and not have to read through this crap?

Re:Sweet spot (-1, Flamebait)

baka_toroi (1194359) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297610)

You can also avoid being retarded and you won't get viruses and trojans.

Re:Sweet spot (2, Insightful)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297822)

Oh I think he's gonna have a tough time with that one.

Re:Sweet spot (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297632)

I don't pirate either, and that's one of the reasons. But I also don't buy things that come with DRM. Even if it's something that I would otherwise have enjoyed, I spend my money on something else.

People seem to act like pirating and buying are the only two options, but we're talking about entertainment here. There are lots of DRM-free sources of entertainment and if you are going to treat me like a thief then I'm happy to be someone else's customer instead of yours.

Re:Sweet spot (1)

zigmeister (1281432) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297762)

I heartily agree, it's the only way out of this http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/2/19/otherwise [penny-arcade.com] infinite loop. And it's not like somebody else is going to sit there and say, "No I don't want your money."

Re:Sweet spot (4, Insightful)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297776)

I don't pirate as well, but at this point it's just easier to do all my gaming on a console. Screw drivers, $200+ dollar video cards, inconsistant control methods, and of course screw DRM. I'd also say screw patches, but unfortunately consoles have caught up to their PC cousins here.

Re:Sweet spot (5, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297892)

I don't pirate either, and that's one of the reasons. But I also don't buy things that come with DRM.

Same here. I'm not so much into the game market, but I do buy a lot of music, and the same principles apply. But when it comes to the point where a game manufacturer is spending more resources on preventing someone digitally ripping off his product than he appears to be on the product itself, then everybody would be better off if the game was simply produced as a physical board game.

Re:Sweet spot (5, Informative)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297664)

I have never yet found a torrent on any torrent site that had a virus or trojan.

Re:Sweet spot (5, Insightful)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297780)

I don't pirate because I don't want viruses or trojans.

I don't buy PC games because I don't want trojans either.

Re:Sweet spot (4, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297894)

Legit purchases have been known to come with malware too, there have been various cases of storage devices being shipped out with malware preinstalled for instance.

Re:Sweet spot (4, Insightful)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297616)

Steam works, at least for me. It adds value to the games most closely integrated with it. Integrated out-of-game and in-game server browsing, community features, store, automatic installation and patching.

Re:Sweet spot (5, Interesting)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297884)

Except you are still giving complete control over your games to a third party. I used to love steam. Then one day they decided that they wanted to change the censored version of a game I bought into the uncensored version. I was annoyed, but more importantly the women folk didn't like it when they saw it. Contacted support to ask for it to be rolled back or for a refund. Was treated like an absolute idiot and was pretty much told to piss off. This after years of being a loyal customer have having spent hundreds of dollars on games. Just completely out of the blue and without permission changed the fundamental character of the game. Had they even tried to apologize I might have been okay with it. Instead I got couple idiots lying to me how they are contacting the developers to try to fix it and other BS. Not just poor support, but down right insulting. When I tried to get another associate thinking I got a bad apple the first time, it was the same thing. They hold every game I ever bought on there for ransom and there is nothing I can do about it.
No matter how good it may seem now, it will come back to screw you. It is still DRM, it just has a happy face painted on it.

Re:Sweet spot (2, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297652)

This whole story is about how and why the DRM will work. It's kind of funny someone always comes along with "it will be cracked" without understanding any of the fundamentals behind how the game copy protections work.

I'm just waiting them to take this one little step further - stream parts of the game code, textures or other data from server (something not used often). Spread it randomly around the game and it becomes almost impossible to build a working crack.

Re:Sweet spot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297722)

You can always make a fake local server.
Anyway i think that almost nobody will buy a game with such drm, it takes too much bandwidth and requires having internet connection also to play singleplayer if not cracked :P

Re:Sweet spot (2, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297824)

You can always make a fake local server.

Did you read at all what I said? Sure, local server is probably trivial to make given enough time. But if the game streams content, code or other data from the server when it needs to in the game, or implements some functions only server-side (is the player at end of the level, spawn enemies when player opens a door and so on), all of that would have to be fetched and reimplemented. With large, open games theres a really good change you need to play hundreds of thousands of games to get all the content from the server, and then you also have to implement the server-side functions.

Re:Sweet spot (3, Interesting)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297796)

This whole story is about how and why the DRM will work.

Yes, and I don't agree with Vogel's premise. It's not going to be more difficult to crack this than it was to crack, say, StarForce; it's just going to be different. And once it's been cracked, how much can Ubisoft possibly change the method for all of their future games? This new DRM is just a complete non-starter.

I'm just waiting them to take this one little step further - stream parts of the game code, textures or other data from server (something not used often).

Yes, I'm waiting for them to finally come out and admit that they don't want any of the PC market as well.

Rob

Re:Sweet spot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297660)

depends on your definition of "works"

if "works" means just slowing down copying than some DRM has worked.

Re:Sweet spot (2, Interesting)

Pluvius (734915) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297736)

Which DRM has slowed down copying more than it's pissed off consumers? I don't consider CD keys DRM, BTW. DRM in my mind is screwing up a game's code for no reason other than to obstruct pirates.

Rob

Re:Sweet spot (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297806)

Considering that DRM never works yet always pisses off some consumers, wouldn't the sweet spot then be no DRM?

Rob

Not at all. It's a tradeoff. I won't buy copy-protected software on principle: if I can't make copies for my own use then it's of no use to me. I'll find a more reasonable vendor. If there isn't one, then I'll do without. For example, I would never buy a copy-protected or DRM'ed accounting program: too risky. Remember the Product Activation debacle that Intuit Corporation suffered some years ago? On the other hand, for many people (most people, I'd say, particularly in the gaming industry and music-download business) DRM that doesn't cause too many obvious problems is acceptable. The market will decide very quickly whether games with this sort of over-the-top protection will survive. Personally, I think this just shows that corporation to be owned and operated by dicks, and I find it's best not to buy from dicks if you can avoid it.

Re:Sweet spot (3, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297564)

Yeah, if nobody buys the game, it will be hard to argue that the copy protection was a success.

Re:Sweet spot (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297850)

Most insightful comment in the thread.

What are they going to do when they can't use this as proof that a pirated copy is a lost sale? Most of the people pirating these games are almost certainly 13-16 year old kids that don't have $60 to blow on a game anyway.

Re:Sweet spot (2, Insightful)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297628)

No, the only sweet spot offered by DRM of any sort is the one between your cheeks.

FAIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297690)

listen hardcore ok
hacker will addin whatever is required to NOT need that net connection

the sales would be as they would for anygame and might be less with negative PR.
THEN
when its released cracked they will all whine more

-1 flamebait (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297540)

This sucks. The only way I was gonna play this game was warezed!

Re:-1 flamebait (4, Informative)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297624)

His whole argument is predicated on his incorrect assumption that the game saves are solely online, and that the game is constantly using those saves. In fact, the game itself uses only your local saves, and the online saves are merely a backup.

The DRM will be broken, and just as quickly as ever.

Re:-1 flamebait (0, Troll)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297678)

Nice FUD there. Have you completely ignored any of the stories detailing the system?

Re:-1 flamebait (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297826)

This sucks. The only way I was gonna play this game was warezed!

Hardly flamebait. If the warez scene offers a substantially more friendly product than the publisher, that publisher should consider rethinking its position.

The very worst (2, Insightful)

PenisLands (930247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297546)

This is the very worst copy-protection I've heard of. Nobody should buy this game.

Re:The very worst (5, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297742)

I'll go a step further. I'm not buying this game. I'm not pirating this game. This game is not getting my money, my time, or my tactic approval.

This is something that just bugs me about the attitude some people have about DRM and piracy. People will take the approach of "this DRM sucks, ergo I'm going to pirate it, instead of paying for it". This isn't a boycott, nor is it voting with your wallet. This is taking the approach that two wrongs make a right, and that pirating the game somehow "punishes" the makers of it for the sin of screwing over legitimate users.

Want to send a message? Do what I'm going to do. Don't touch the copybroken crap with a ten foot cable.

Because make no mistake, piracy rates for a game are measurable. If the game is popular, and pirated extensively, then the message sent to the publishers is that the DRM system, however extreme, still isn't "enough". That an even more extreme measure is needed to turn those hypothetical pirated copies into sales figures. And the developer still gets acknowledged as having made a game good enough for you, the pirate, to want it. If they think they can make a paying customer out of a pirate by making the game unpirateable, then they'll got to great lengths to do exactly that.

The only way to break DRM in the long term is to vote with your wallet, and simply ignore the very existence of companies that cross the line the way Ubisoft has. They need to be told, and have that information backed by hard data, that DRM is hurting their sales by making the legit users leave (you know, the people who actually pay for the game?)

mod parent up (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297832)

Wish I had mod points for you. You're absolutely correct. The only reasonable course of action if you object to the DRM is to ignore the game altogether.

Re:mod parent up (1)

PenisLands (930247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297858)

Which is what I meant with my original post. I didn't mean to suggest that people should all pirate the game, but for some reason everyone has taken it that way.

Re:The very worst (1)

PenisLands (930247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297866)

Listen Johnny, I never once said that people should pirate the game.

Re:The very worst (3, Insightful)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297872)

People will take the approach of "this DRM sucks, ergo I'm going to pirate it, instead of paying for it". This isn't a boycott, nor is it voting with your wallet. This is taking the approach that two wrongs make a right, and that pirating the game somehow "punishes" the makers of it for the sin of screwing over legitimate users.

Wrong. It's taking the approach that Ubisoft considers you a pirate either way. Any gamer who didn't buy it is a "lost sale", and they have no way to determine what the cause is of that "lost sale". Simple answer: they're all pirates. So if you're not going to buy it, you may as well pirate it if you have any interest in playing it.

A boycott is only successful if you can prove it is having a significant impact on their profit. Good luck with that.

Down (5, Interesting)

ktappe (747125) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297556)

My DSL goes down (for just a minute or two) daily. It's usually no big deal, but here it apparently would be. Thus this is a game I could never purchase. Let's let our dollars send the message to the publisher that they're living in a dreamworld with such an unfeasible technical requirement.

Re:Down (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297692)

If it goes down just for a minute or two, you won't have problems. Sure you might have to wait a minute, but other than that there's no problems.

In contrast, my own DSL goes down maybe one time every 2-3 years.

Re:Down (1)

Allicorn (175921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297820)

Of course it's hardly the end of the world but really, if your DVD player randomly went on pause for a minute or two each time you watched a movie - would you not possibly end up using it less?

Re:Down (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297888)

If it goes down just for a minute or two, you won't have problems.

Quoting PC Gamer:

I tried a different test: start the game while online, play a little, then unplug my net cable. This is the same as what happens if your net connection drops momentarily, your router is rebooted, or the game loses its connection to Ubisoft's 'Master servers'. The game stopped, and I was dumped back to a menu screen - all my progress since it last autosaved was lost.
[Emphasis added.]

Rob

Sure it's hard to crack (5, Insightful)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297558)

Even thought it's hard to crack, it's not uncrackable. A set of talented hackers/programmers can try and reverse engineer the system and build their own server (or a server might leak out). Then, changing the binaries or using some other technique, they can replace the server address with the address for their server. Given enough time, they might do it -- but the game will probably have become deprecated when they do it.

With that said, this is the most horrendous example of what the gaming society is becoming. I'd rather throw myself off a cliff than pay these fucktards.

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (2, Informative)

Spaseboy (185521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297600)

The point the author of the article is trying to make is that by the time the crack or circumvention comes out, Ubisoft will have made the vast majority of the money they planned to make on the title. Strange enough, they aren't requiring an Xbox Live connection for the 360 version. I guess they only think Windows users are dirty thieves.

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (1)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297646)

Exactly what I meant with "Given enough time, they might do it -- but the game will probably have become deprecated when they do it."

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297712)

And again, that's what counts. You're just saying again exactly the same that the article and summary did. What is your point?

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (1)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297814)

Everything has a point. I might even be trying to influence people to buy the game by looking like an idiot who calls other people fucktards; I may be trying to be showing them that it is hackable and that, thus, they can freely buy it. Heck, I can even be trying to see if I can type something out of thin air.

Good question, "What is your point?".

What is your point?

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297874)

It's harder for the average person to pirate a game for 360 than it is to pirate the same game for PC.

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297634)

All you should need is actually a cloned/alternate process tied in to treat 127.0.0.1 as the server.

Save locally. Play without having to be connected. God forbid someone would want to play a SINGLE PLAYER title somewhere where they didn't have a network connection up and running...

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (1)

Jorl17 (1716772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297676)

If I get it correctly (I might have not understood it OK), they need a connection to the server to play, with different chains of ins and outs of switching info. That's the process that a client-side hacker-made server running at 127.0.0.1 would have to mimic. If only it were as simple as saving locally, uploading and deleting...

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (2, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297840)

Doubtful.

Recall that everything else about the server is DRM, which could easily be sliced out of the client, just as we've been doing for ages. The only tricky part is that all of the savegame logic assumes a server -- so the obvious solution there is to write just enough of a local server to handle the savegame.

So in other words, this is a combination of TFA's points 1 and 3, plus the fact that point 1 was assuming an actual hacker-run server, rather than something at 127.0.0.1. Possible, and probably not terribly difficult, for any group which has done this before.

In his edited version, he claims you can't play the "real" WoW, only some "cobbled-together emulation server". But this is fundamentally a single-player game. All the ingredients you need are local. The only part that would be "cobbled-together" is the part that allows you to save your game, and face it, that doesn't take nearly as much to get right. The fact that people have made cobbled-together WoW servers, a much harder task, shows that it's possible.

The final suggestion was to put more and more logic server-side. That's more and more of an investment on Ubi's part, in bandwidth and in server horsepower, and fewer and fewer people who can reliably play the game, given the number of low-bandwidth and unreliable Internet connections out there. I don't think they want to go that way.

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297748)

That means someone has to reverse engineer the protocol and code everything the real server has, like load/save system.

Personally I think they will take this one step further too and serve some data from the server too when an user needs it in the game. If you spread such around in the game wisely, it's not possible to ever retrieve and rebuild everything needed from the server.

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297650)

"I'd rather throw myself off a cliff than pay these fucktards."

Please do! Fucking parasite!

Re:Sure it's hard to crack (2, Insightful)

chatgris (735079) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297896)

With that said, this is the most horrendous example of what the gaming society is becoming. I'd rather throw myself off a cliff than pay these fucktards.

Thankfully, you have a simple, legal option available to you: Don't buy the game. It's just entertainment :)

Not impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297560)

I've seen cheats that let you edit most aspects of a character. You'll probably seen something similar to save/load character info & position in the game. Yeah it'll be harder but not impossible.

big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297566)

somewhere in the code there's a function that goes "take this memory buffer and send it to the server as my savegame". reimplement that to dump the buffer to the disk and you got your savegames (do the inverse to load).

Re:big deal (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297670)

And the best bit? If this code is really as complicated as they claim, it probably contains a few bugs. The pirated version, which bypasses all of this code and just dumps the data on disk, will be much simpler and so probably more reliable.

Well now... (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297570)

This is a far more difficult problem for a hacker to circumvent.

Well, if the asshole "hackers" weren't trying to circumvent it we wouldn't have this draconian crap would me? /tongue firmly planted in cheek.

And in a few years.... (5, Insightful)

sanborn's man (687059) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297582)

you'll have a non working game because Ubisoft will bother to have that old crap running longer or even Ubisoft could not exists anymore. No thanks.

Re:And in a few years.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297656)

The common response to this is that Ubisoft will patch the game. Of course, no one thinks about the fact that if it's really so hard for pirate groups to patch the game, it's not going to be easy for Ubisoft to do it either. Since Ubisoft is so overtly hostile to PC gamers, I don't think they'd put in the effort.

Rob

Re:And in a few years.... (2, Interesting)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297746)

This isn't really accurate. Patching a game with access to its source code is an entire different beast from patching a game from assembly (or, even worse, DRM-mangled bytecode or hooked assembly or whatever wacky techniques they're using.)

Presumably, all they'd have to do would be to take the server savegame code and build it into the client.

Your argument is like saying "well, if it's so hard for people to write perfectly-compatible WoW servers, then obviously Blizzard has to go through the same amount of work every time they modify their game!" Duh. No.

Forget it. (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297584)

Just when I think about getting into some on-line game play. A company has to pull a bone-head maneuver like this. Good luck on making those revenue streams before the crackers break your code because you won't get any of that revenue from me. As usual most writers have their head up their ass.

Actually, I've solved the problem quite easily. (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297592)

I was considering this one. I'd played the first Assassin's Creed borrowed from a friend, and I liked it quite well. But given this issue, I have an easy solution for the DRM.

I just won't buy the game, since I can't be assured of it continuing to function if Ubisoft goes out of business tomorrow. They sure showed me!

Also, remember the horrible ratings Spore got on Amazon, because of the overly invasive DRM? That actually worked. Why not do the same here?

Re:Actually, I've solved the problem quite easily. (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297868)

Same here. Even if Ubi eventually releases patches to strip out these draconian systems, the games will be in the bargain bin by then.

That means that instead of collecting $50 per game from me, they'll make $20—or nothing. Good business strategy, Ubisoft!

The Crackers Will Win (5, Insightful)

Manatra (948767) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297594)

It won't work, because all the crackers will have to do is emulate that distant server on your own box and route any traffic Assassin's Creed II sends through 127.0.0.1 (this is a simplification). That said, it may work for Assassin's Creed II, but for any subsequent releases (Splinter Cell Conviction, Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands, etc.) the crackers will already know how the system works and break it easily.

Re:The Crackers Will Win (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297730)

``It won't work, because all the crackers will have to do is emulate that distant server on your own box and route any traffic Assassin's Creed II sends through 127.0.0.1 (this is a simplification).''

That could work, but it may not be the easiest way, especially if the network protocol uses good encryption.

However, you have the binaries ... so you can modify them to not require the interaction anymore.

In the end, it all depends on whether it's worth the effort. I don't know what goes on in every cracker's mind, but I can easily imagine them directing their effort elsewhere. And I can imagine would-be gamers doing the same thing. There are plenty of other games to play that don't require an active Internet connection so the game can send Chtulhu knows what to the Man.

Re:The Crackers Will Win (2, Insightful)

zigmeister (1281432) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297848)

I've often heard that for a lot of the cracker folks, cracking is "the game." As in that's why they do it, and as such the harder a game is to crack or the more boastful Company $X is about how robustly secure their system is the more "fun" it will be to crack it. Then again, I don't give a shit, I'm just going to take my money elsewhere seeing as I refuse to pirate games (not just for moral reasons, I also feel that to get some entertainment I shouldn't have to jump through a bunch of friggin hoops) and I refuse to pay for a game that is so obnoxious, for the same reason and because of I bought it it's mine, respect me as a customer and person. /rant

the hard truth (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297596)

The system will only work if people actually go and buy the game instead of waiting for a crack. Even if I were interested in buying it (which I'm not) I would wait for a crack just so I wouldn't be hogtied in trying to play it.

Sooooo... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297602)

...just DoS the servers. The entire plan hinges on connectivity. Remove that aspect.

Sometimes (and really most of the time) civil disobedience is the best way to get your message across. If you make a game that no one can play (thanks to a DDoS, DNS hijack, or some other trickeration that mucks up their DRM), who wins? The consumers are pissed because they can't play the game they purchased, the devs are pissed having worked so hard on something that no one is enjoying, and both sides are forced to re-evaluate their stance on using/purchasing games with DRM.

Rogue Server? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297618)

I can see a patch quite simply where someone creates a rogue server, then modifies the game to point there... or perhaps as simple as installing a loopback and turn the host computer into a server, and point the game to localhost?

Bullshit. (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297620)

Unless contents is served from a server (ala an MMORPG) then all this will require is a different toolkit. Most games are hacked these days semi-automatically, by specialized sotware that detects and replaces calls to "DRM compliance" sub-routines or emulates behavior of various external Windows APIs. With similar effort one can construct a kit that replaces calls to server communication sub-routines -- or better yet, the hackers can emulate the whole "mothership" server system, based on the analysis of the appropriate client sub-routines.

And even if some contents is stored remotely, it will take enterprising hackers only some time to download it all. Then again, if the game is really a bastardized MMO (without the MM component) then a whole market segment - i.e. laptops used in remote work/study locations is nixed.

In short the cost and lost sales is likely exceed any effectiveness of this (and any DRM).

local server? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297622)

127.0.0.1?
redirect server to localhost,
emulate server on local machine ....
PROFIT!!!

If the data can be read it can be exploited (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297626)

Reverse engineering the protocol used shouldn't be too hard with the aid of proper tools like Wireshark. As for encryption, at some point the data has to be unencrypted in order for your system to be able to use it.

Now, it may not be as easy as putting "activationserver.developer.com 127.0.0.1" in /etc/hosts (or c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts) but I'm sure someone will create a "pirate" server that can be run locally along with any required patches for the game itself.

/Mikael

Re:If the data can be read it can be exploited (1)

jisatsusha (755173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297906)

I suspect that the game probably uses PKI encryption to ensure it's talking to a valid server. Now that doesn't mean it's not hackable, it always is eventually, but that kind of thing /would/ require a game patch.

It's stupid. (2, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297636)

And heres why: the checks for Internet are already broken just substitute them as checks for the disc and you can see this. What does this leave? The crackers just need to write some save and load game routines that go local instead of cloud. So, in effect instead of having a copy that doesn't have stupid digital restrictions the day it is released you will have it a week after its released. And who suffers? Not the pirates, the people who bought the game. Luckily for me there is nothing in Ubisoft's upcoming lineup that I'm interested in anyway but if other publishers decide to follow this stupid anti-customer lead then I'm just going to go outside and take up baseball. You know, real baseball, in real life.

Re:It's stupid. (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297778)

But EA already has an exclusive license on real baseball!

On Making Its Money (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297658)

``You must have a constant internet connection, and, if your connection breaks, the game exits. While this has angered many (and justifiably so), most writers on the topic have made an error. They think that this system, like all DRM systems in the past, will be easily broken. This article explains why, as dreadful as the system is, it does have a chance of holding hackers off long enough for the game to make its money.''

Two things, though:

1. Is there any evidence that games do generally _not_ make their money if they lack strong DRM schemes?

2. What evidence is there to support the notion that this DRM scheme will make the suppliers more money?

Although I don't have any evidence to support any claims, it seems clear that implementing any DRM scheme has its costs. First of all, there is the cost of implementation. Then there is the potential of lost customers: people who will be angered by the scheme, or people who buy your product, only to find they can't get it to work, and then return it. I've seen both happen multiple times. Finally, assuming your DRM scheme manages to restrict distribution and use, that means your product has fewer users. That can be a Bad Thing for your sales, especially when network effects come into play.

With several things speaking against an invasive yet effective DRM scheme making you more money, I'm really curious how the numbers turn out in practice.

Work is the operative word here (2, Interesting)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297666)

I for one, if I can't download it from a torrent site, then I won't buy it. First, because gaming reviews are mostly useless, second because I don't want DRM.

Assassin's Creed 2 can be the best "game" of the decade, but it's not if it has intrusive DRM. Then it's just a waste of money.

Prince of Persia didn't sell? (1)

Singularity42 (1658297) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297668)

I bought this (the latest 3D one) on DVD after I heard it had no DRM at all. The box actually said it did, but it appeared not to. I think it's the only example of a major game without any DRM (no cd check) on disk.

Who the piracy cold war hurts the most (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297674)

As some one that buys games and never pirates I'm one of the innocent victims of both sides. Back in the day there was no security so games were easy to install on new machines and required no additional set up. Now I'm facing if I buy Creed II the eventual death of the game. One day those servers will be turned off and the game will be rendered worthless. Blame the company? It's hard to since they did this in self defense. I blame both sides. The side that wants something for nothing and the side that worries only about the pirates and not the paying customers. The paying customers are always going to be the true victims in this war.

Maybe it will be cracked... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297682)

...and maybe it won't, because not enough hackers will bother to obtain the thing when they hear about the horrid DRM. I expect this system will delay a crack. I hope this system will also delay and limit sales resulting in the game not making money after all. I think Vogel has overestimated the difficulty of hacking the game; it uses the Internet, and thus there's no major difference between talking to a far-away host and talking to good old 127.0.0.1. So there's no need to set up and maintain servers; a crack could contain a local server.

Re:Maybe it will be cracked... (1)

Sylak (1611137) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297784)

Keep in mind, Vogel did not say it was unhackable just would do its job of delaying a hack. His software's anti-piracy feature (6-digit key codes based on 4-digit entry codes) is one which is routinely cracked within a week, but it serves its purpose. Enough people buy the game for him to make money, and that's all the DRM schema anybody uses is really for.

Save States (3, Interesting)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297706)

You don't really need some special code for save games when you can easily write a program that will save the state of any game and let you resume right at that spot. It's been done with emulated games, it will be done with these games, and will avoid the whole mess of picking apart the mechanism used by the game's DRM. If you update the game, however, it will cause problems, but it's certainly doable.

Re:Save States (2, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297886)

That is harder to do.

First, emulated games have access to the entire state in RAM. So, save the RAM and the framebuffer, then restore -- easy. This one is also going to have tons of state in video RAM, meaning you now have to re-initialize the entire DirectX (or OpenGL) context and load everything relevant there.

Second, emulated games assume a console, which is vastly simpler than an OS. Anywhere this game is accessing something in the OS, Internet, whatever, is a potential problem when restoring.

And finally, it means dumping all of the RAM, rather than the most convenient on-disk representation of RAM. That means savegames are now going to be several gigabytes of crap, instead of a few kilobytes.

And of course, as you say, if you update the game, it will cause problems -- I would say fatal problems. I don't see how you could reasonably expect to restore an old savegame to a patched game this way. With an emulator, you generally assume there isn't going to be a new patch to, say, Mario 64, and if you patch the emulator itself, it really doesn't matter, since the emulator knows how to dump the state of the emulated machine, not just a RAM image of the entire emulator. If there was a patch to the game itself, emulators wouldn't save you.

What's old is new again (1)

Patoski (121455) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297710)

This new DRM system is essentially a virtual dongle and will likely hold up about as well as the old DRM systems (i.e. not very well at all). The remote server will be emulated or the bits of code which check for the dongle will be cracked.

I don't see how this system is all that different from early attempts at DRM in the 80's other than potentially annoying their legitimate customers a lot more. That and there are a lot more skilled crackers now than in the 80's.

people will accept anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297714)

One thing I've seen over the years is that people will accept any form of corporate control over their computer. It doesn't matter how draconian: it can be "you can only buy software from *us*", and they will cheerfully accept it.

Occasionally a big stink gets made, for example Spore, and everyone group-thinks and many avoid buying it. But mostly that doesn't happen, and the next thing, even if *more* draconian yet, will succeed. It always does. It's a lumpy road, but the path is clear if you look at things in the 70's and again now.

Uncrackable DRM is easy (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297718)

I can make a clone of Assassin's Creed with unbreakable DRM in 5 minutes. The catch? Legitimate users can't play it at all either. Just like spam filtering, the more DRM stops pirates the more it will stop legitimate users, and 100% anti-piracy stops 100% of non-pirates too. Anything less than 100% has holes in it which can be exploited.

progress (1)

edutiao (1305865) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297724)

"Cloud" DRM! Damn, next you know be nanobots inside your game DVD waiting to strike...

Few vs world (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297726)

First problem is that this is a few paid programmers vs the world. Good luck with that. Secondly good luck keeping those servers running 24/7 for the next decade. Right now as I write this my daughter is playing Dead or Alive on my original XBOX. She would be pretty ticked if they were to have turned off the servers. Thus they have left code where they can plug in an update that will eliminate their server requirements some time in the future and allow local saving. Saving a game state is really easy. For the most part it is a big serialization. Thus hackers might just intercept the activation of the game state and just dump the data with the load function reversing the same procedure. Lastly they are going to find that running all these DRM servers is eating into their bottom line big time as these servers are going to receive some wicked hack attempts. Then lastly they are going to really tick off their customers when they lose game data to the hackers(or HD failure) or the hackers put everyone back to square one and rename their characters to Gay McGayster.

Is this really new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297764)

I don't really deal with much third party software, but this seems like a better version of the old scheme of authenticating over the internet, because it builds a dependency for consumers while supposedly providing a service. As long as you can make it seem like it's a real service and not just a onerous form of DRM, nobody minds. This is why, for instance, automatically posting scores to a shared space for players is a great idea -- buys you authentication while giving clients a feature pretty much all of them would either like or see as reasonable.

And yes, I'm putting these things in positive terms because they provide options for getting paid for work I make for sale to the public. If I don't get paid, then I stop working on publicly available software - or at least publicly available software that's not on closed hardware. That's what it boils down to, since I'm not independently wealthy or immortal. Obviously the best form of DRM is the kind you don't notice, and developing a natural dependence on a central server can be a slick way to go. Of course if it's completely artificial, then it pisses everyone off.

Only problem is... (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297768)

Most gamers I know have decided to just skip the game entirely. I know I will, I did buy the first one though and felt ripped off so I wasnt likely to buy the new one anyway. Still, friends of mine that did like the first one have mentioned not buying it specifically because of the DRM, two of them live in a rural area though so its understandable they coulnt play if they wanted to. Sure there are other games that are online only like WoW, etc but those are sold as an online experience, the first AC had single player only, the new one has some multiplayer modes tacked on but is still primarily a solo game. Gamers that dont follow gaming news are likely looking at it as a single player game and many will be duped into buying it that wont be able to play it at all.

Actually it does bring up an interesting delima...are they putting huge warning stickers on the outside of the box? I live in the midwest and there are still lots of rural areas around me that have no broadband access or very limited, a constant connection just isnt possible. Concidering the joke of a EULA that basically is summed up as "If you opened the box to read this...its too late sucker". There had better be warnings the size of warnings of cigarette boxes or I smell a potential class action suit in the near future.

Ask Konami how this is going for them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297770)

because they've been doing this for QUITE a while on their arcade games, and this is a VERY small hurdle for those hackers to get by, and quite a niche audience for a bootleg compared to AC2. Long story short, Konami lost this battle in 2002. Ubisoft didn't pay attention, learn, and will lose again in 2010.

Misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297782)

The claim that the save and load code is intimately tied to a server is misleading. From what I've read about the game, all save games are stored locally and uploaded some time afterward (This is also how Steam Cloud is usually implemented.) All a hacker needs to do is rip out this second part. It's not actually part of the save/load mechanism - it's an after-effect.

From an edit made to TFA: "As for the game making local copies of the saved games. IF this turns out to be the case, and IF the game also has easily accessible features in place for loading those saves (as opposed to only caching them there and only being able to load from the distant server), then yes, it's a dumb and easily crackable system." Well, yes, that's exactly what the system is. So...yeah.

more like (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297792)

more like The Awful Anti-Player System That Will Probably Work.

Trivial. :-) (1)

Midnight Ryder (116189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297794)

Conceptually, cracking this game is trivial. If it's using a DNS lookup to find the server, edit hosts. so it just loops back to the local machine (127.0.0.1). Then, write app that simulates the DRM server to save games, etc. are handled locally. Of course, I say it's conceptually trivial - depending on some specifics, it could get a little more difficult, but definitely doable. Same goes for the idea of streaming textures, etc. that someone else suggested - it's all crackable, just like nearly every scheme. Heck, even having the game live online only can be overcome with the help of some really determined people - if you can set up a WoW server at home, then even streaming game content isn't viable as a copyprotection mechanism.

I need an example (1)

sabre86 (730704) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297810)

What game has Ubisoft lost money on due to lack of DRM? It remains a poor solution looking for a problem.

No it won't (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297812)

First off, awful big assumption that the crackers won't be able to break it. Thus far, all the complex DRM schemes that have come their way have fallen in short order. This one I imagine will face particularly intense attack just because of the "Oh it can't be cracked," idea. Tell someone they can't do something and that is just a challenge to see who can be the first to do it. I'd say there's a real good chance the crackers break it, and probably in not all that much time.

Second, there's the incorrect assumption that it will do nothing but increase sales. No, wrong. That is based off the extremely faulty assumption that everyone who pirates a game would have bought it had they not been able to pirate it. That is not at all the case. You have a very non-trivial number of people who will pirate it if they can, and do without if not. After all, there are plenty of people who will try something if it is free that won't if it costs anything at all. So even supposing it succeeds, there isn't this vast reserve of people out there who would pay but aren't.

To offset any gains there, you have people that won't pay, because of the DRM. I am one of those people. I enjoyed AC1 and was looking in to getting AC2. I was told that it was more of the same, but with some of the annoyances cleared up. Great, sounds worth it. I buy a lot of games, they are my primary form of entertainment, and I don't lack for money. However, I won't be buying this one. This DRM is unacceptable to me. I'm not going to pirate it either, I'll simply play other games, there are plenty of good ones out there. So they are directly losing a sale, because of the DRM.

That's the problem with invasive DRM. Even if it can stop pirates, which is real doubtful, it pisses off legit customers. As such you may well lose money using it. Remember that the total number of sales you gain due to preventing piracy has to be enough to offset the total number you lose AND the amount the DRM costs you, including development, implementation, and support. If not, you've lost money and it was a stupid business decision.

Ubisoft seems to have the idea that the goal should be to punish pirates. No, it shouldn't. The goal should be to maximize profits. You do that by getting the most sales and you do that by getting people to buy your title.

So they can have a lot of fun with this, but not on my dollar.

Seems to have worked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297856)

http://www.product-reviews.net/2009/11/23/assassins-creed-2-sales-better-than-original/

It sold more than the original

http://thepiratebay.org/search/assassin%5C%27s%20creed%202/0/99/0

Zero hits

Save the process's memory (1)

falckon (1015637) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297862)

If creating a server that actually implements the save-game functionality is too difficult, then perhaps they could just save the process's memory to a file and reload it. Sure the save files would be on the order of gigabytes but disk space is cheap.

Hacker ethic (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 4 years ago | (#31297864)

I think the harder DRM is designed to crack the harder crackers will work to beat the challenge.

Already failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31297876)

Any anti-piracy system that the user has to be aware of and take extra steps to ensure normal use of their game has already failed.

A good anti-piracy system would prevent piracy AND be transparent to the end-user.

I've abandoned Windows as a gaming platform due to several of these recent 'advances' in DRM to the point where I don't care much about upgrading my hardware. I'll play the odd indie game with low requirements and no DRM, but that's about it.

Schemes like this are only going to kill the PC market (no reason to upgrade specialist GFX hardware if every game that needs good hardware has crazy protection schemes which are just annoying) and I can also see it taking a bite into Windows too (I'm seriously considering installing Ubuntu as my primary OS, my only reason for having Windows was new games, and schemes like this have made that a non-reason)

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