I’ve been having even more fun with copy protection programs lately, and strangely enough they were both caused by demo software which really has no business even trying to use copy protection when you think about it!
SecuROM – Overlord Demo
My first issue was with the demo for Overlord, which was tossing up error messages because it didn’t like me running Process Explorer from Microsoft. I have no clue why they don’t like it running, but whatever, I stopped it and the demo still didn’t work and still claimed Process Explorer was running. A small amount of investigation later and I discovered what it was really complaining about was the Process Explorer driver being loaded (the driver isn’t unloaded after Process Explorer exits).
Ok – this was pretty obviously a bug in SecuROM (they want to stop people looking at their “sekrut programz” so try hard to detect anything that can even though Process Explorer isn’t that smart anyway), and I really wasn’t in the mood to reboot my machine every time I wanted to run a simple game demo. Digging out WinObj I messed around with the access control on the driver object itself and found that SecuROM happily ignored the presence of the driver if I just denied access to everyone. Of course, this then gave the problem that I couldn’t set the permissions back to what they should have been on the driver because I was denied access and WinObj didn’t give me any useful way to get the access back!
Well, it was time to write a quick program to block off access to the driver, run the SecuROM application and when the app was done, set access back to what it should be on the driver. In the end, it was all pretty easy and worked like a charm: http://www.chase.net.au/HidePE100.zip
Interestingly enough, after I wrote this program I bought C&C3 which had the same problem and I was easily able to use this program to get around SecuROM’s bug. It should also be noted that I’m not getting around their protections (which would be illegal thanks to the idiocy of the DMCA), simply because the program explicitly makes sure Process Explorer isn’t running before it allows the SecuROM program to run.
Tages – Silverfall Demo
My next problem was with the Silverfall demo, which I used Steam to download. After the gigabyte of downloading I try to run the demo and nothing happens. Pulling up Process Explorer (I love that program) I see the Silverfall application starting and exiting quickly, trying to run “TagesSetup_x64.exe”. Well, it turns out that Tages is yet another copy protection vendor which is exclusively limited to CD/DVD media and has the somewhat idiotic claim that it prevents 1:1 copying (which all copy protection vendors do). Turns out they aren’t providing digital signatures for their drivers that ship with Silverfall, so Vista x64 simply won’t load the drivers and leaves a report of the fact in the event log.
I’m really not sure what’s more idiotic. Providing unsigned x64 drivers when the majority of x64 users are on Vista and won’t be able to load the drivers anyway, putting copy protection on a demo, or putting copy protection on a game that is downloaded from Steam which has its own copy protection scheme anyway! I really don’t think I’m going to buy that game, at least until I find a good no-cd crack that removes the issue of idiotic copy protection that prevents legitimate customers enjoying a game.
Copy protection doesn’t stop the crackers for more than a few hours. It doesn’t stop the bittorrents firing up with free versions of the games to download. The only real effect it has is to hurt legitimate users from enjoying games that they’ve probably paid good money for. I’ve lost count of how many games I’ve tried in the last few years that have given me grief over copy protection and the whole thing really makes me wary enough now to make sure a crack for the game exists before I go out and spend good money on it.
I hoped game companies would look at the success of Galactic Civilizations II which shipped in huge numbers without protections, compare it with the massive consumer backlash against StarForce and realize how bad the whole thing is for their bottom lines, but they keep drinking the SecuROM kool-aid and keep hurting their customers more than the pirates. Idiots.