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# And now, back to your regularly scheduled ranting.

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For those who are getting linked here from who knows where - please read the follow-up post after this one. It makes things much more clear I think.

I've been reading up on the StarForce/Galactic Civilization II scandal this afternoon. I find the whole thing disgusting on several fronts. First and foremost, what StarForce did is obviously reprehensible and someone deserves to bleed (as in literal physical blood) for that kind of scummy behavior.

However, the more important issue here is that these calls for StarForce boycotts need to stop.

Now, lest I give the wrong impression, let me be clear about why this bugs me: as I read through dozens of pages of blogs, blog comments, news articles (to use the term loosely), and various forum postings, I see a lot of mention of boycotting StarForce and StarForce-protected games. One of the games that comes up quite often is X3. I literally can no longer count the number of people I've seen claiming to have not bought games like X3 simply because of StarForce's involvement. So, up-front, let me be perfectly clear that I'm pissed about this because it affects me, personally.

So I hope you understand me perfectly when I say that that kind of attitude is only slightly less scummy than StarForce's. That's a strong statement for me to make, so let me explain my position.

Most boycott activists whine about StarForce supposedly being invasive, incompatible, unstable, and so on. That was true - at one point in time. However, the current generation of their software is vastly improved from what it once was. It properly cleans up after itself (in most cases), does not have severe effects on performance (I've run protected and unprotected builds of X3 side by side, with a negligible difference in performance, and only a slight increase in load times), is far more compatible (based on technical support queries in the Egosoft forums), and I've yet to see any evidence whatsoever that the current generation is unstable.

The bottom line is that, in the current generation, there's vanishingly little reason to "hate" StarForce except on a purely philosophical level. I'm a professional game developer, for Bob's sake, and I hate the notion of copy protection. But I also realize that it is, more or less, a necessary evil these days.

The boycotters seem to believe that, by not buying protected games, they directly "injure" the protection companies like StarForce. It doesn't take much common sense to figure out that this is entirely ludicrous. They still get a very healthy cut. They're probably going to use reduced sales as "proof" of piracy, not as evidence that people hate their protection schemes. And they're certainly not going to shut themselves down and go out of business just because some people don't think they should exist. Wake up and join reality, folks - boycott activism rarely makes a real, positive difference.

It does make a real, negative difference, though. The most dangerous are the people who buy the games, and then crack them to bypass the protection schemes. I won't argue whether or not it is "acceptable" for someone to do this - but it is an idiotic behavior. It seems unfashionable in this day and age to consider the consequences of one's actions. Most of these "legit crackers" are serving only to escalate an arms race. Sure, the pirates themselves contribute to the escalation, but it would go a lot slower if the users would quit using cracks.

Arguably, at this point, it's too late. The activists have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. "I crack this game because protection schemes are too invasive." So the companies have to go and create more invasive, more "effective" schemes to retaliate. Can't you guys see you're digging your own graves deeper here?

All that is gravy, though. What really bugs me is how short-sighted and ignorant most of the activists are. At Egosoft, we use StarForce primarily at our publishers' insistence. Anyone with even passing familiarity with the game industry knows that publishers hold the power. We sell a niche game, one that struggles to even get shelf space next to more "famous" and money-laden publishers - even when their games are bilge. We had to fight hard to get a publishing deal at all. We either make some concessions to sell the game, or we don't sell it at all.

Most importantly, though, is what the hot-headed, ignorant, short-sighted boycott weenies do to sales. Every time you refuse to buy a game, you're not hurting StarForce. StarForce is going to make a boatload of money no matter what you do. You would literally have to boycott the entire games industry into nonexistence, and rebuild the entire industry from the ground up, to get them to go away - and you know what? Another one is just going to spring up to take their place. It's stupid - patently moronic - to believe that a boycott movement will ever really change things for the better.

You're not hurting StarForce. You're hurting the game developers. You're hurting us, on our small and relatively unknown team. Suppose the anti-StarForce mob successfully "prevents," say, 10,000 sales of X3. The publishers then compare us to other titles, which (maybe on merit, and maybe just on publicity) have sold better. Guess whose contract gets the axe? Guess who still sells copy protection by the boatload, blissfully unaffected? Guess who really goes out of business?

You may think you're pissing all over The Evil Greedy Corporations, but they're smarter than you are. They know how to duck. You're not getting your urine all over them, you're hosing us.

This lunacy isn't fixing the problem of rampant, excessive copy-protection. It's killing the small guys, the underdogs. Your religious fanatical war is slaughtering innocent bystanders by the millions while the real enemy laughs at you from inside their impenetrable bunkers - and just sits back and escalates the carnage still further when you refuse to back down.

The whole issue of piracy really comes down to respecting developers enough to support them for making a game. Yes, there are peripheral issues and other things that get lumped under the same banner, but that's really what it's all about, in the end. And yet people have gone so far that they're missing the forest for the trees. You may claim, on the surface, to be fighting for the rights of developers and consumers to live in a world free of ridiculous copy-protection schemes.

But when it all adds up, you're screwing the developers, too - and maybe even contributing to the death of the small-time studios out there. You're not even making the consumer's side of things better, either, because it just sparks an escalation that shows no signs of slowing down.

All of this craziness is supposed to keep pirates from destroying the creators of legitimate works like games. But, in the end, I don't think pirates are anywhere near as much of a threat as the supposedly upstanding consumers that are fuelling this war.

Can't say I disagree with you... but the sad truth is that consumers will probably always think that they're "Sticking It To The Man" by boycotting things [rolleyes]

This sort of thing usually make me want to go and beat some sense into customers. But I've been warned that beating up customers isn't much better for sales...

Jack

[opinion follows]

I certainly don't agree with the boycott bandwagon, I certainly don't expect people to sit idly while their ability to actually use their computers is taken from them. I certainly wouldn't expect people to trust Starforce after being bitten once.

Copy protection mechanisms have never worked. We've 20+ years of data to show it. Blame your publishers for making a boneheaded decision, not consumers for making a reasonable one.

The question is, does your publisher know whether StarForce is "evil" and will cost them sales alone? If not, any drop in sales will just look like "Hey, that ApochPIQ made a shitty game and there are no sales coming out of it".

If you want people to stop pirating games, games need to sell for cheaper. 1/4 of someones pay is to much for a game. If games sold for $AU50 (about$30 US) people would be a lot more likly to just buy games, but at $AU100 its far to prohibitive. But you blame pirates for the high cost, well guess what, keeping the price high is no incentive to buy it and stop piracey, and the further you raise the price the higher the piracey rate will climb. I dont pirate my games, I own all of about 6, and play games I have purchsed against people online (I only buy games that have a possible long term multiplayer aspect, why pay all that money for 7 or 8 hours game time?). I do however use a no-cd patch on some of them, because they flat out will not run unless you do. Also I travel a lot, who wants to lug all their cds with them? Risking breakage, scratches and theft. #### Share this comment ##### Link to comment So you're saying that what StarForce does is wrong, yet you're ranking on customers because they choose not to buy products that are "protected" with StarForce? Make up your mind already! And telling potential customers that they're "pissing you off" because they don't want a copy protection like StarForce on their system isn't exactly the best PR move in the book. It reminds me of something a certain "Dr." Smart would do, actually... #### Share this comment ##### Link to comment "The whole issue of piracy really comes down to respecting developers enough to support them for making a game." And what about YOU (developpers) respecting your CUSTOMERS first, in refusing to implement things like StarForce in your game? Look at StarDock, they respect consumers, and they get a lot of respect for that. And, let's assume that indeed the boycott does nothing to StarForce, and nothing for consumers: now, consumers then have two choices: - stop buying SF protected title, and don't compromise their computer - keep buying SF protected title and put their computer at risk, in the end paying to have their computer screwed, and hope that one day publishers will stop using that crap or other intrusive things? In saying people keep buying SF protected games and shit on them because they don't, you cleary show that you don't deserve any of the respect you ask for. Do you really expect consumers to respect you when you cleary have no respect for them at all? You need to deserve respect to be respected, and shitting on those who you want respect from is the best way not to get it. And as someone said earlier, maybe the boycott by the consumers have next to no effect on SF. You, as a developper, can have a much greater impact, as long as you want to do something and not only expect your consumers keep paying for your game when it forces dangerous unwanted crap on their computer. Oh, and as for your difficulty to find a publisher: any developper can have a contract with StarDock to release their game via TotalGaming.net, so the only thing you might need in fact, is an editor (the one who will pay for the game development), as you can choose TotalGaming.net as a publisher, see http://totalgaming.stardock.com/developers.aspx Sorry for the agressivity, but this is how I feel after reading this, as a consumer who cares for the computer he spent lots of money in and don't want it to be screwed. #### Share this comment ##### Link to comment Ok, some points here for ApochPiq. "Most boycott activists whine about StarForce supposedly being invasive, incompatible, unstable, and so on. That was true - at one point in time" WRONG. Look at all the messages on games forums and you will see that NEWER versions of SF cause problems. The NEWER versions of SF (installed and updated when GT Legends demo was installed) are the ones which caused my DVD drive failure and possibly have caused a problem with my IDE card. "boycott activism rarely makes a real, positive difference." Really? Seems to have worked with Ubisoft/Aspyr. No doubt others will follow. "The most dangerous are the people who buy the games, and then crack them to bypass the protection schemes" How many people can do that. Your average gamer cannot. Since many games have cracks out soon after their release, or even BEFORE the release, then surely that means that the code must have been leaked or given to the cracking groups since I doubt that sort of thing can be done in a few hours after they BUY a game. "We had to fight hard to get a publishing deal at all. We either make some concessions to sell the game, or we don't sell it at all. Make decent games that will sell quickly then. Come to think of it, isn't X3 pretty popular because of X2? If it is popular, then you can say NO to starfarce and go somewhere else if they refuse. "The whole issue of piracy really comes down to respecting developers enough to support them for making a game" We, the gaming community, do that. We'll buy any game which is good. If it isn't, then that is your fault. But what about some respect for US, by not using a so-called copyright protection scheme which can "break" our PC's? "All of this craziness is supposed to keep pirates from destroying the creators of legitimate works like games. But, in the end, I don't think pirates are anywhere near as much of a threat as the supposedly upstanding consumers that are fuelling this war." Well done, you have just realised that the consumer has a voice. You see, there is a problem here. People with a little technical knowledge can cure SF problems. But most cannot. They have to take their PC to a repair shop, spend a hundred bucks or more, just because of YOUR GAME. THAT is why people vote with their wallets and refuse to buy SF protected games, there is too much of a risk to them. Drop SF for a SAFER copyright protection scheme, and you will have no complaints whatsoever. Doesn't take a computer programmer to figure that one out. Your comments here are the ones that disgust me. The failures of yourselves and your publishers are the real issue here. You have failed to listen to the people who matter the most, your CUSTOMERS. We pay your wages, you would be nothing without us. Your software causes many, documented issues on PC's because of the inclusion of starforce. Despite the complaints, you continue using it and therefore tell us to "Piss Off". A nice attitude to your "fans". That attitude only does one thing, it makes us do the same to you. Well, done, you've managed to fire another bullet into your foot here. #### Share this comment ##### Link to comment I bought X3, I used it and didn't affect my machine. My son loves it so much he eneded damaging the DVD (ran over it in chair on tiles). I don't have the receipt (long gone in the trash). Cannot get a new disc without purchasing a full copy. Now if I was allowed to backup the disc (by the way the law here in Australia allows me to do this)I could still continue to play this wonderful game but with Starforce it sucks. I will not buy another game with Starforce included and frankly it is my decision and don't give a damn what developers feel as it is my right to choose. Just like is was the developers and publishers right to CHOOSE starforce protection. Dave #### Share this comment ##### Link to comment It’s all about greed. I might be showing my age when I remember… Buying PC Gamer and it was the size of a telephone book and had a CD packed with about 10+ demos. Games came out with lots of patches and upgrades for FREE. After about 5 months or so a game dropped to$20 (now it’s 3 and a year or so later down to $20). Expansion packs came out at$20 (now its $30 with less features then when they were$20).

When games were actually good and replay able (not so focused on graphics).

I will mention Galactic Civilization 2 and the publisher Paradox as exemptions. These points listed above bother me on top of those changes now I have to worry about a game being compatible because of copy protection and upgrading that. I just purchased a brand new computer and I want to avoid all the problems with my other computers (viruses, CP, and their ilk).

Most publishers seem to be stuck in the 90's when you could exchange or refund PC Games at EB Games (or any store for that matter)without a second thought. The real problem is the countries like Brazil, China, and Russia where pirating is not looked at like a crime. Not the punk teenages that couldn't buy the game anyway. The only people you hurt with CP is the people that go out and spend \$50 on a game like me.

First of all thank you for shering your thoughts on the subject. Im sad to say you are looking at it the wrong way:) But all the other have pointed that out to you. Im boycotting sf becuse its stupidety for you to use it. And well i support boycotting and im sad to say so i hope egsoft gose broke. And here is the realy nice thing i realy was planing on buying x3 but becuse of sf i realy dont care if you made the best game in the world.

You seem to forget whos boss her mister developer:) Its us not you or youre publiseher, its the market and we dont want sf so learn to live withe it!

You article made me so angry that I decided to put a video of a PC rebooting because of the X3 Starforce protection on the boycott page.

I make money, and even with a 20Mbps DSL, I buy games. You really have a low estime of your customers...

Check out the video on glop.org/starforce not too far from the broken trackmania CD ;)

"The boycotters seem to believe that, by not buying protected games, they directly "injure" the protection companies like StarForce. It doesn't take much common sense to figure out that this is entirely ludicrous."

Guy, I understand that you're saying you're a developer, so such an action would take money out of your pocket, but wow, you cannot be so biased as to really believe what you're saying, can you? Yes it DOES 'injure' Starforce. No fan is out here to, e.g., destroy Ubisoft. We're out here to stop the use of Starforce.

If you can't handle that a "necessary evil" (nonsense) in your line of work pisses buyers off and they therefore boycott your product and you lose money... find a new line of work. There are plenty of options out there.

"What really bugs me is how short-sighted and ignorant most of the activists are. At Egosoft, we use StarForce primarily at our publishers' insistence."

Frankly, you are ignorant, for thinking we give a damn. We target the product - we don't care if boo-hoo, your publisher is making you do it. Find a new publisher, dick. And if it's so hard to find one, perhaps try revising your product so it is actually attractive to investors. Don't go blaming us if your product is shit and so no publisher wants it.

"Suppose the anti-StarForce mob successfully "prevents," say, 10,000 sales of X3. The publishers then compare us to other titles, which (maybe on merit, and maybe just on publicity) have sold better. Guess whose contract gets the axe? Guess who still sells copy protection by the boatload, blissfully unaffected? Guess who really goes out of business?"

You; no one eventually; and you?

To summarize:

1. make a product that's worth a damn
2. sell it to a publisher who doesn't force SF on you (there are plenty)

-or-

1. whine like a little pussy because the world isn't all roses and cookies and hands you a happy life for nothing

Read the news dopey and get with the times.

I'm not sure where this got linked from, but if you're here from wherever that was, be sure to read the followup post as well - it clarifies quite a few things.

I appreciate all the comments - but suffice it to say most of you clearly have no comprehension whatsoever of how the game industry works. That's very unfortunate, because it leads to precisely the kind of situation that we're in now. I wish there was more publicity over how the industry is run, because I honestly think that if most people realized just how skewed the power is towards the publishers, you might understand the predicament of niche developers such as myself.

Hopefully the Ubisoft drop of StarForce will start generating good effects in the rest of the publishing land. We'll have to see. I honestly wish it were so black and white, but it isn't.

In any case, all we can really do is keep working, and hope that we can continue to deliver our work to people in an effective and productive way.

But definitely check out the follow-up post.

Noone has the right to manipulate MY hardware configuration in a questionable way, unless i choose to do so.

When i buy a game i want to be able to make any modifications to it necessary for me to enjoy it as i choose to. For this reason i'm boycotting Starforce protected games along with thousand other gamers in hope that companies will follow UBIsoft in dropping Starforce.

I do not support selling or trading pirate versions of games and i'm strongly opposed to anyone who is profiting from the hard work of others, but enough is enough.

No matter how many protection schemes you come up with, noone can stop evolution and bypassing them within a short period. Starforce may be a hard protection to bypass, but it still is just a protection that will be broken.

As for now we shall go with the "Alexandrian solution". If we cant "untie" your protection we shall "cut" it.

I can see where the frustration comes from, but I am actively boycotting Starforce none the less.

This protection software has caused my DVD writer to fail in such a way that it still appeared to burn correctly but actually corrupted the files.

So when I bought a new PC and archived off valuable photographs of my new son and a family pet which had just died only to find that some of the files were fine and others have CRC errors, you can imagine how miffed I was.

Even though SF's tech support have got X3 running for me with no CD, I still am not prepared to take the risk of having that P.o.S. on my PC and I am still angry about the problems it causes.

The latest versions of SF still cause problems and regularly put my DVD drives into PIO mode which is what causes the burning problems that I have had.

I know that the drive failure is due to SF, because I can replicate it on 2 machines, Intel and Athlon in my house and once this was reported to SF, they didn't deny it all but instead had me trying several versions of their software to stop it checking the DVD drive.

I appreciate it's frustrating that your title isn't selling, however it's driven by your publishers insistence on using SF.

You have the potential to influence the protection system used on your products, especially if you can demonstrate the negative impact it's having on sales, I however am unable to retrieve valuable family photographs lost through the installation of intrusive copy protection software which doesn't work.

Until SF is sorted, X3 can stay on my shelf and I'm taking great care to not purchase SF protected games given the amount of frustration it has caused me.

If you're basing the success of the latest SF protection through your tech support and lack of calls made to them, then I would also give it a while, they appear to work on a geological timescale, having not received any correspondence from them since my contact with them logging the above problems 2 weeks ago.

"I appreciate all the comments - but suffice it to say most of you clearly have no comprehension whatsoever of how the game industry works. That's very unfortunate, because it leads to precisely the kind of situation that we're in now. I wish there was more publicity over how the industry is run, because I honestly think that if most people realized just how skewed the power is towards the publishers, you might understand the predicament of niche developers such as myself."

that's a load of BS. i hope you agree that the market of "serious" racing simulations is a niche. but non of the contestants of high esteem like ISI (rFactor), the developers of Live for Speed (basically three guys) or netKarPro (also very small development team, long time freeware project first developed by only one guy) wanted to compromise their ideas and hard work (and maybe ideals) just to being told by a publisher to make their stuff more flashy/arcardey/put in whatever you want/different to what they had in mind. hence they went/stayed indie, selling their products directly via net.
the point here is, whatever the environment looks like, you DO have a choice, wether you like it or not. the question here is: do you have the guts to make a decision at all, or do you stay on your lazy ass doing nothing (like most of the people do, me included). cmon dood, do you really want to make us believe, that you're sooo a slave to the "almighty" industry you're talking about. if so, i'm sorry.

Maybe if you made a game that didn't suck you'd have a legitimate reason to complain about low sales. As it stands, your game sucks. Badly. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Reap what you sow.

P.S. I want my money back. If I knew how bad your game was going to be I wouldn't have bought it in the first place, but then it's my fault for not waiting for the reviews.

(Poster : IvanT)
There are a great number of points you make which are both valid and coherent. From the point of someone who is a) a writer and not a coder b) understands enough about computers to build one, the whole Starforce debacle is something that has hit home on some basic level.

All I know is that when an application, or driver, or any segment of code behaves in such a manner that its operation causes degradation or failure of a component through its interaction with it, logic would suggest that its removal would be of primary concern.

My own personal experience revolves around Splinter Cell 1, Starforce, and two sadly very dead Plextor drives (both read but no longer write). That they were damaged by SF is a moot point. That my system was able to return to being able to use Nero and burn media essential to my job as a writer, after having removed SF, is however, not a moot point. For me, I took the path, and perhaps an extreme one, of completely eradicating the component that caused me issues, SF.

This doesn't mean I am boycotting SF games, I still am and have bought SF games, X3 included. I'd love to see MS work with SF to perhaps WHQL certify their dlls. My personal opinion precludes me from not playing them however until the publisher releases a no-cd patch. If they do, great, if not, well I have a very expensive coaster. I'd be more inclined to allow a WHQL certified SF onto my system than a driver which wasn't. Either way, the choice is mine. Perhaps not the smartest one, but mine nonetheless. Isn't that what this is all about, choice?
-IvanT

as we boycotters know
SF sux !!!
SF wreak our machine !!!
SF totally a pile of shit !!!

u stupid developers who use SF in your games
and u expect us to pay to wreak our machine ???

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