Seems there’s a copy protection scheme for PC based video games called “Starforce” that’s causing all manner of headaches, but not for the pirates.
Dubbed “cutting edge activation technology” by the product’s creators, the software quietly installs device drivers without informing the user. Once installed, users can open Device Manager, click on “view” and then “show hidden devices” to see their new uninvited house guests.
Once four different device drivers are installed, the software monitors your CD-drive to confirm you’re using the original CD, while the system encrypts executable files, but also non-executable files included in the application. The software also collects system information and creates an error report should anything go wrong.
Users report that the software gobbles up computing cycles, slows CD drive read-times, creates CD-R read errors even after removal, and is responsible for a number of device conflicts – particularly with external USB drives. Users who have tried to remove the product manually have often damaged their systems to the point of needing a fresh OS install.
If users aren’t irritated by the system issues, the unannounced installation, or the privacy implications of such a program, they usually are bothered to learn that the drivers are not removed when a user removes the host application. Users also aren’t alerted to the driver installation by the end-user license agreement present in most of the games that employ the protection technology.
I really don’t know why they even bother trying to copy protect games any more. In this day and age anyone who wants a pirated copy of something is going to have no trouble finding it, especially if they have broadband, and just about every single title that carries the Starforce copy protection has been cracked save for the very latest releases such as Soldiers: Heroes of World War 2 which the folks at BR have heard is expected to be cracked this week—just a few weeks from its launch.
The only people being affected by this copy protection are the ones who bought legitimate copies who now have a fucked up PC because they didn’t know this crap was being installed and were given no choice. Those that have figured out what the problem is are now turning to the very crack sites they weren’t making use of previously to find “no CD” cracks and other pirate tools to make use of the game they paid good money for. For those of you who have this protection scheme on your system who think it might be causing problems there is a cleanup utility out there that’ll remove it for you. Of course, you won’t be able to play the game afterwards without resorting to the cracks out there.
In the ongoing struggle between the pirates and the publishers it’s the legitimate users who lose out.