Posts Tagged ‘PC Game’

Of course I am not going to tell you how to do it exactly. For a number of reasons, the first and foremost is that I don’t know how Ubisoft DRM works. Just like the crackers of the DRM software, you make good guesses, explore the program and try to work around what you have. It’s about repeating these long, arduous and mundane steps until the games DRM is cracked. From the point of view of the scene, I can respect the challenge!

Ubisoft doesn’t have just one DRM system; it in fact released several different versions of the UbiDRM, testing the waters as to what works best. Some games like Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell Conviction used a less sophisticated method of the DRM. But the newer UbiDRM, being used now, uses an incremental release of the play files.

Clever!

This means if the games DRM is bypassed, a cracker has to double check the whole file, otherwise it could look bad on their part. Of course this means that when Ubisoft were boasting it hadn’t been cracked, and the crackers where saying here you are, they where both right. But it was wrong of Ubisoft to say anything in the first place, then to say nothing afterwards. However at the moment the DRM is proving its ground. And good luck to it!

Not that it ever was a weak DRM in the first place. Much to the surprise of many people, the first round of UbiDRM was not cracked straight away. Even though it was widely reported as being done in 24 hours, it was not completely true, but what happened is a story in itself.

Personally I don’t agree with the UbiDRM! There is no denying that this is a very clever system, but it breaks one of the most fundamental rules of the ten DRM commandments.

I. You shall not have any DRM before me! (One DRM protection method per Game is enough!)
II. You shall not make for yourself any likeness of the Game or DRM! To those that crack games or illegally distribute you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.
III. You shall not take the customer’s name your god in vain, for the customer will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain!
IV. Remember the Game, to keep it holy. For days the customer shall labor, but the weekend is for serious gaming.
V. Honour thy Game Publisher and Developer, that your gaming may be long upon the land which they have provided for you.
VI. You shall not corrupt the gamers rig.
VII. You shall not cheat on the gamer.
VIII. You shall not steal the gamer’s personal information.
IX. You shall not bear false witness against thy gamers rig.
X. You shall not covert thy neighbour’s DRM, Rig, Gaming Experience, nor anything that is your neighbour’s!

Yes, UbiDRM breaks the third DRM commandment:

It takes the customer for granted. Well honestly it breaks more than one, but the third commandment is such an important one. To say we are constantly watching you! Is saying that you don’t trust the honest customers, no matter what benefits you dress it up with, Ubisoft is branding all as the one. And that’s insulting, and of course this is the territory of the double edge sword.

You want to target the illegal downloaders and convert them into happy customers. You don’t want to target everyone, force them to the doors of the credit card company and force them to pay!

I pre-ordered Assassins Creed 2, then some months later when more details came out. I found out that it would come with this uPlay/UbiDRM system; at that time I don’t think it had a name. So my internet connection being weak and intermittent I just knew that it would never work out. I sent out a complaint to Ubisoft and they never even bother to reply.

Instead they hired some third party PR company to solve all their complaints. The Third Party PR Company were fantastic and did everything Ubisoft has failed to do, respect the customer. I cancelled my pre-ordered copy and they sent me out a free game. It was King Kong 2005, the one with StarForce protection system. The thought was nice, but I don’t attribute this goodwill gesture with Ubisoft. Sometimes I get the impression they can’t even be bother or even worst they don’t care!

Anyhow!

It’s interesting to know how UbiDRM or the always online DRMs differ from the past protection methods such as SecuROM. These newer DRM, in comparison are a whole different ball game when it comes to breaking the DRM. In the old days, with SecuROM, you’d come to some code that performed a security check, which basically look like this:

[–GAME CODE–]
Perform Security Check!
If it FAILS{ Stop the Program from Working EXIT}
If it PASSES { Continue playing Game }
[–GAME CODE–]

With a very liberal brush, I am tarring all the old DRMs as employing this simple method. It’s not true, but the point is that problem is that once the game kicks you out, this gives away a tell-tale sign. This tells me some security protection happened at this point. So with a debugger, a common programming tool, a lot of time, you can rewrite the main exe file to skip the security check. So it now looks like this:

[–GAME CODE–]
Skip 3 lines down!
Perform Security Check!
If it FAILS{ Stop the Program from Working EXIT}
If it PASSES { Continue playing Game }
[–GAME CODE–]

Of course I really have underestimated the brilliance of what crackers do and the brilliance of the security companies too. Most of the newer DRM version don’t do these simple security checks any more, but still use this exception rule of kicking you out of the game. That is enough to give crackers a starting point, and all they need.

As my old college professor used to say “let hack to learn, not learn to hack!”

Currently there are a number of implementations that make up the UbiDRM. The one here is specifically for the PC game Tom Clancy’s H.a.w.x. 2 released on the 16th November 2010. What Ubisoft has decided to do, and quiet rightly, is to use a whole host of security methods. Because time is the enemy of the gamer, and there is a limit to the amount of time an illegal downloader is willing to wait.

The things that UbiDRM uses is the handshake, UDP connection, Cookie, Server Checks, Ubi Launcher, partial files and maybe some other methods. And of course I want to make it perfectly clear; I haven’t discovered or explored any of these.

The first thing you have to realise is that human speech isn’t like computer speech. Computers need order and timing; otherwise it would get into a big mess. As for human speech, it is a big mess, but we normally use visual clues as to when we can talk back. Computers use a handshake, and at its most basic level it’s a greeting from one computer and an acknowledgement from another. In this handshake, the computers agree on the message size, frequency and a whole other list of protocol issues. But in its simplest terms, if you think of two radio stations, you can think of it as agreeing to say “over” at the end of the conversation.

UDP, now this is surprising as all other UbiDRM games used the TCP method of transmission. Basically Transmission Control Protocol is message system that uses the handshake method, it is very controlled and every message sent is sure to be received and acknowledged. While UDP, User Datagram Protocol, doesn’t use a handshake method. It’s more fire and forget, if the message gets there then so be it.

Ubisoft must have its own internal handshake sent on an unreliable transmission system. Or that the game files don’t regard the transmissions as important, which means there must be a leeway in the time between communications. But as it turns out, blocking the UDP ports still allows the game to function, so they can’t play a huge role in the protection system.

There is also a theory going around that UbiDRM uses http cookies, of sorts, that it creates text files that the server can then analyse. Cookies, basically a bite size chuck of information stored for your web browser. They are not code and cannot be run, but contain instructions that can be used by something else. This is why you are warned so often about cookies, as they can be to store information on your computer and you.

Server check makes the majority of the security protection system here. If Ubisoft can constantly make changes to the DRM from the server side, this is good as they have total control. But its bad, if Big Brother is going to watch the honest gamers who have purchase the games. They might as well take it one step further and setup all games in Ubisoft HQ and play under their watchful eyes. This further punishes the honest gamers, but at the moment the H.a.w.x. 2 still doesn’t have a crack. But the real test will be Assassins Creed Brotherhood due out next year.

The Ubi Launcher is a security system in itself, not only does employ some of the tactics, such as communication with the server, it also has a CD check. Currently, this isn’t a problem as the cracker groups have release a work around for this. A very good start, but means nothing at the moment. As you are able to bypass the security check to gain access to the main menu, just not play the singleplayer game, however you can play the LAN.

The partial file is also a good system to use, as it means that someone has to play the whole game, and upload it for someone else to work on. Because rarely are the two the same people, this means more time is needed before the game is cracked for the general populous. Black ops sold 7 million copies in the first 24 hours, this means you only have to protect a new game for a short while to get the majority of sales.

Of course in the pirate world this isn’t completely true. For starters I believe that illegal downloaders are so use to having a crack, they are prepared to wait for the one stubborn game. But after 1-2 weeks that patience wanes significantly, but of course it depends on the game. If Black Ops was protected for the length as H.a.w.x. 2 is, I believe that the sales number would be very significant.

Tom Clancy’s H.a.w.x. 2 was released on the 16th November 2010, and it is now crack free for 34 days (20/12/2010) and still counting.

Unfortunately the waiting game is also a double edge sword as new titles are constantly being released. If one game proves to be very secure, but not in high demand, people just move on. But if publishers don’t protect their games, they lose money, if they do and it takes too long people move on, there just seems to be no winning for the publishers at all. A protection company would need a constant series of wins, before becoming a threat.

Even though Ubisoft uPlay system is very customer unfriendly, it seems to be doing the trick. There seems to be only two ways to crack the UbiDRM, either by pretending to be the server (emulation) or through removing the DRM from the game exe file. Both are difficult tasks.

The first round of UbiDRM was removed through a cracking process and the sever side emulation, through a program called dormine. Skidrow have created the crack and released it, but to the jeers of the other groups, who believe that they have stolen code. Technically it’s not it not completely true, did they take the dormine code, yes. But in the rules, yes cracking groups do have unspoken ones, there has never been any mention of not being able to borrow code. And as it stands the dormine program will only get you to second base with UbiDRM. It only solves the handshake, TCP, and encryption, i.e. once you have the message you still have to know the correct responses. Skidrow did a commendable job in figuring out the rest and for the first Ubisoft games, all their bases where belonging to Skidrow.

The second method is just a pure crack, this doesn’t require an emulation of the server because it will strip out the protection code completely. However this is a difficult task, because you have to manually search for the parts figure what it is doing, try to remove it, and make sure that you haven’t missed anything. Finally it’s extremely difficult if Ubisoft are withholding parts of the game files. Because now its not about removing the security protection, is about rewriting the missing parts.

Imagine, I could tell you the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but could you write a page or even a paragraph, exactly from memory. How hard would that be? We know Ubisoft is on to a winner with this security protection system. But as for creating a revenue source from their DRM, they have a long way to go.

As for Tom Clancy’s H.a.w.x. 2, this is unfortunately a game with an average want value. Most people are willing to wait for this game to be cracked, because it’s not high on their Christmas list. Now next year Ubisoft will be releasing Assassins Creed brotherhood, a highly anticipated game. It will be on everyone’s want list. This is the real litmus test, and I fear why Ubisoft should have released this DRM with that game. As this has given the crackers time to explore this method, and depending on the circumstances, could hinder the UbiDRM protecting Assassins Creed Brotherhood.

But for the many illegal downloaders looking to get their hands on H.a.w.x. 2 it’s a case of singing “All I want for Christmas!” And it’ll probably happen too!

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Following the much praised Modern Warfare 2, again the Call of Duty series has broken all records for the first day sales. After all the court cases, the feuds, and the tantrums that followed MF2 Treyarch has pulled this one out of the bag. The first day sales being reported as 7 million copies worldwide, everyone must be happy with that!

 

But what I am finding more and more, when people talk about gaming sales. They are talking Xbox and PS3, but when it comes to PC versions everyone shuts up. It’s all about perception, and the PC sales are just embarrassing. Even though it took a while, I found that the sales market share of the Xbox 360 was at 59% and the PS3 at 36%. The PC market share was not so clear cut!

 

“Xbox 360 takes the largest proportion of sales with 59%, 36% for PS3 and the remainder on PC, Wii and DS.”

 

Call of Duty: Black Ops Sales Top $360 Millionhttp://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/23252/Call-of-Duty-Black-Ops-Sales-Top-360-Million/

By: – “-Sparky-” Nov. 11th, 2010 10:08 am

 It seems that the hype surrounding Call of Duty: Black Ops has paid off for Activision. The game launched on November 9th in North America and the U.K. with massive ad campaigns that spread across gaming websites, billboards and television ads. Day one sales for Black Ops totaled 5.6 million copies or $360 million dollars.

 These sales figures eclipse last year’s launch of Modern Warefare 2 which sold 4.7 million units within the first 24 hours. Activision is hailing this launch as the “biggest launch in entertainment” surpassing the opening weekend set by the film Avatar last December.

 

Call of Duty: Black Ops Sells 7 Million Copies on Day Onehttp://gamrfeed.vgchartz.com/story/82685/call-of-duty-black-ops-sells-7-million-copies-on-day-one/

by Brett Walton on 10 November 2010

 According to early VGChartz estimates, Call of Duty: Black Ops has become the fastest-selling game of all time with over 7 million units sold on day one following over 4.5 million preorders as reported earlier in the week. If the 7 million for Black Ops holds true, it would make the launch around 10% larger than Modern Warfare 2 and the biggest of all time.

 Lending some extra weight to our estimations are reports that over 4 million users have now connected to Xbox Live to play Black Ops and similarly impressive figures via PSN. Breaking the data down, we estimate over 3.6 million units were sold in the USA, 1.4 million units in the UK, over a million units in continental Europe and 350,000 units in Canada. Xbox 360 takes the largest proportion of sales with 59%, 36% for PS3 and the remainder on PC, Wii and DS.

 

 

The article states, perhaps a little flippantly, the “remainder on PC, Wii and DS” fight for the rest of the market share scraps. This sentence is all too telling! It wasn’t even worth the effort to work out the remainder, which was 5% of the sales. On top of all of that the PC has now been pigeon holed with a girl’s game console and a girls, hand held, game console.

 To claw some dignity back for the PC gamers, am going to assume and desperately hope that the sale market share was 3% for PC, while the Wii and DS combined was the final 2%. I chose this because I seem to remember the market share for Modern Warfare 2 was also 3% for the PC.

 

 I suppose it’s interesting to know that the Xbox and the PS3 games are more expensive than the PC version. Under the Euro, both Console versions sell at a MRSP of €54.99, while the PC version is €10 cheaper, at €44.99.

GameStop Irelandhttp://www.gamestop.ie/core/common/default.aspx?quickSearch=Black%20Ops 

 Price Check (27/11/2010)

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Std (Xbox 360) = € 54.99

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Std (PS3) = € 54.99

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Std (PC) = € 44.99

 

 The table below shows us that the PC sales brought in just under 10 million Euros for Activision. This isn’t bad, but dwarfs in comparison when compared to the sales of the Xbox or even PS3. Even if 210,000 units were sold at the console price, you still be looking at a drop in the pond.

  

 Even though the more expensive Xbox 360 version and PS3 out sold the cheaper PC version, “The Poor Pirate Excuse” tells a different story. The PC version has been downloaded illegally a disproportionately amount of times compared to all the console versions put together. For the full story you can read here at: wordpress blog

Below are the main two slides from that blog:

 These pie charts show the illegal downloading proportion for the same game title across several different gaming platforms. The difference between the console, marked in Red, and the PC platform marked in Blue, is extremely clear and one sided.

 

This table shows the percentage value of the illegal downloading on a Console platform vs the PC platform. As you can see, generally the PC platform has a clear majority easily averaging 95% of the illegal downloads. Unless it’s a “high want value” game, then people who own a console are far more willing to illegally download it, the percentage becomes roughly 75%.

The Tables and Pie Charts dispel a belief that piracy happens because games are way too expensive. This is wrong, bearing in mind that PC games are normally cheaper than Console versions and that they are a want and not a need. The evidence shows that for Call of Duty: Black Ops the PC sales are out stripped by 2404% for the Xbox, and by 1467% for the PS3. Then in the same light, the PC illegal downloaders outweigh the consoles by 78%, compared to 22%. It just doesn’t make any sense.

It makes perfect sense if you cast a big shiny light on piracy and say it for what it is! Illegal downloading and pirating software material is far greater and easier on the PC. That nobody wants to pay for a game, when the perceived value of a PC game has become nothing.

Unlike the Xbox and the PS3 that need modchips to play the games. And this is no longer completely true as the hacks are getting much simpler! Most people are unwilling to use these kind solutions as it normally requires some complex steps and if it goes wrong then warrantees are void. The PC is a different beast, as the user normally has a certain degree of computer skills. For them, rar files and an illegal ISO, is a park walk with a Segway!

 

So how many times was Call of Duty: Black OPS illegally downloaded on its first day? Well this is a hard question for a number of reasons.

Firstly, in the piracy world, things happen a little differently, the game was available 5 days before, on Thursday 4th November.

Secondly, the piracy market isn’t exactly like the conventional retail market.

Normally illegal torrents released on the official date do not peak straight away. They climb rapidly and then peak in 1-2 days; afterwards the tail off comes down slowly for about 1-2 weeks, were it reaches a saturation level. Normally at saturation level the Seeder graph line meets the Peer level, and it can stay like this, slowly decreasing for many months. Just through observation, torrents stay active for many years, depending on the popularity of the game. Black OPs downloading peak didn’t happen until Friday 12th and Saturday 13th of November 2010. Below is an example of the time line for one illegal torrent for the PC game Mafia 2.

 

So counting all the illegal downloads up to 1 day of the official release date across 7 illegal torrents for Call of Duty: Black OPS. We have a total illegal download count of 592,736, this is more than twice the PC sale estimate.

 

If we count the Seed and Peers of all the torrents, to when it peaks on Sunday 14th, from when it first appears on Thursday 4th. The illegal downloads figure dramatically rises to 1,817,990. From our experiments, most illegal downloaders don’t anticipate a release, but as soon as they hear of it, say a TV advert, then they join the P2P network.

However the Torrent Watch experiment was not designed to find the specific illegal downloads on any particular day. It was designed to say over the period of 6 month the average estimated loss, which we say is 10%, of a game would be roughly… this much. In this case over a period of 6 months there would be an estimated figure of 26,713 downloads a day. This comes to €120,181 per day, which is 26,713 x €44.99 x 10%. So if you imagine this loss over 6 months, being 182.5 days, you come to a rough amount of €21,933,032.

This is how we arrived at this figure of 26,713 downloads per day for Call of Duty: Black OPs. Torrent watch looks at the aggregate Seed and Peers 4 times a day. This gives us two curves per torrent, showing the numbers currently downloading from the illegal market. To turn this into an illegal download figure we estimated the rough time it takes to download 7 GB. But this depends on a number of factors like network speed, if people are sharing, the users connection speed and so on. So we generalised it, and said that if someone was to download 7 GB in 2 days (48 hours) they would need an average connection speed of 41 kb/s. In today’s internet connection terms is small, and seems like an average download speed!

 

The table shows the total recorded Seeders and Peers, and the number of days the tests was active for the particular torrent. You can see the total count of Seed and Peers for each of the Call of Duty: Black Ops torrents. From these numbers we calculate our recoup figure, taking the 10% as the minimum, to see what the return could be!

I suppose it really depends on the popularity you place on the PC platform, as 3-5% worldwide market share never felt right to me! While I don’t think it’s in the same bracket as the PS3 or even the Xbox, I would like to believe that the actual share is much higher. There is no bases for saying this, but if we look at the gradient of the Xbox to the PS3 which is 0.61. By extending this gradient for the PC it gives a unit count of 1.5 million, a total sale of roughly €67 million, and a recalculated market share of 18%.

 

But as I have said; other than a straight gradient through the Xbox and the PS3 there is no proof for this. However on a subjective look, my own personal belief, it does feel more in line with the total sales. But I guess we shall never know? But WarFace will struggle to find out one day!

 

As for records, this is sure to be the most illegal download of this year. Torrentfreak releases those figures around the 27th December. My predictions for games in this year’s top 10 will be in this order Call of Duty: Black OPS, Mafia 2, Fallout New Vegas, Medal of Honor, Darksiders, PES 2011, and StarCraft 2: Wings of liberty.  As for the number of illegal downloads, I am guessing it will be a whopper of a number at around 6-7 million illegal downloads.

The more worrying fact in all of this is the constant rise of illegal downloading. In 2008 the top most illegally downloaded was 1.7 million (Spore), last year 2009 it was 4.1 million (Modern Warfare 2), and if this year is as I suspect! Then it paints a bad picture for the PC Platform, and a very shaky one for the future of PC gaming!

 

 Well as a publisher I’d have to ask myself why bother releasing a game for the PC at all?

Why don’t I just give it away for free…?

 

At least for that PC game the piracy level would be 0%, and that would be another record!

As a PC man, this is hard for me to say, so listen carefully as I shall say it only once.

“Consoles might be a more popular gaming rig!”

Oh… I think I am going to be sick…

Well it’s true, while there are many benefits of all platforms, the PC has always been highly adaptable and versatile. It is even possible to use Wii remotes with a PC! But of course the main benefit is that a PC is graphically better in all respects, with the worst problem being the cost and complex nature of the machine.

But as a “sit down in your living room and help you relax”, you have to admit, Consoles win every time.  There is nothing better for many a hard worker around the world to come home. Switch on the Box, and the Console and start playing. Which would mean that consoles would be far more popular, right?

Some of the claims I hear from Pro-Pirates is that PC games are rubbish, they have no lasting content, and aren’t worthy of being bought. Gaming consoles are far more popular, but is piracy levels greater than the PC? No, deep down we all know that piracy is greater on the PC because it’s easier, and because it’s easier people pirate more!

What really amazes me about this kind of quote, that “PC Games are rubbish!” People don’t seem to understand that most games are released across the platforms. So if a game that does well in sales, then it can’t mean that the game is rubbish, as it will be the same content across the platform board. More often than not “rubbish” games do exceptionally well in console sales and exceptionally well in PC piracy.

This leads me to believe that pirates are lying! This is just an excuse, so pirates can justify not having to pay for a game. Games are expensive, and no one likes buying a product, and having the feeling they have just been ripped off. But how come we can understand that compensation fraud is driving up the costs of insurance, but not piracy driving up the costs of games. It’s killing the PC industry; just not kid yourself into believing otherwise!

There are some Good Games, Bad Games and Downright Ugly ones too; the platform has nothing to do with the quality. Actually the quality should affect the consoles versions even more, because you can always patch a PC game. A console game is much harder, unless you hold off, as the recently released Fallout: New Vegas stands testament to!

Watch this it’s very funny and scary (PC Version): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToKIkw3LIoQ

On a PC game this can be patched and downloaded easily and quickly, as in the case for this Steam version.

One of the best was to judge piracy level is to look at the game releases on the PC and Console Gaming rigs. For the Consoles we have the Xbox 360, the PS3 (PlayStation), The Wii, PS2, and Hand Held Devises such as the PSP (PlayStation Portable). These are just to name a few, but in this test I have only looked for the main three XBox, PS3, and PC.

I have used a torrent search engine, because it makes life so much easier, and then searched for games that stretched the platform divide. The torrent search engine provides a static count of the Seed and Peers. I took those results and then divided up the torrent by the platform, either PC or Console, and counted the total seed and peers.

Image of the search for Call of Duty: Black OPS 

If we look at the table of all the torrent results we find some astounding results. We have all assumed that piracy for the PC was greater than the Console, but to find the huge gap between each level is shocking. 

The last two columns show the percentage increase between the Console and PC. So for Call of Duty Black OPS, you can see an increase of 146% (Seed) and 452% (Peer). As a ratio that would be nearly 1.5 and 4.5 greater than the console. Now consider the average illegal PC game will have 18 times more seeders and 20 times more peers than its console counterpart. 

The pie charts show the Console as red, the seed being dark read and the peers being light red, while the PC being in blue. Each individual game title shows a clear majority of blue compared to red sections.

But it is also worthy of note that of all the games displayed, there is a clear two tier piracy level. On the one hand you can see the 6 of the games clearly show a console minority of under 10%. While 3 games show a clear console minority of around 25%.

 

This indicates that the 3 games (Call of Duty: Black OPS, Star Wars: Force Unleashed 2, and PES2011) are highly anticipated games. This allows you to draw a number of conclusions!

Either    (1) The PC platform is far more popular than Consoles!

Or           (2) That people really don’t want to pay for games, and the PC is the machine for the Job!

If you’d like to download the data sheet, that has all the names of the torrents and their counts, you can do so here.  (http://www.warfaceaps.com/files/PCvsConsole Data Sheet.pdf)

What should be taken away from this?

I think it is a good idea to note, from this experiment at least, it suggests there are two types of games. The ones that do well and the ones that do not, platform and cost does not decide. Of course there is probably a sliding scale of games ratings. But unpopular games don’t get pirated more, in fact, as suspected the more popular games are, funnily enough, pirated more.

But what is clearly stated here is that piracy on the PC is far greater than the Console. The lowest percentage being 72%, this shows a serious problem with releasing games on the PC. If you owned a gaming company, producing something that you worked hard on, no matter if it was rubbish. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that there is an awful gamble when it comes to the PC platform.

I know it’s probably not true, but I’d like to think that the PC catapulted gaming into the main stream. If I am honest, piracy probably had something to do with the widespread gaming situation we have today. But if I take that one step further, I believe that piracy will also have a hand in undoing all the great work it started.

A Great Shame!

One of the main problems that I come across is no matter what I show people, they still don’t want to listen. And I am quite well aware of the lack of statistics and vagueness of the whole topic of illegal downloading. Also the vagueness and lack of any proof people post in return. Still when I show people the results I come up with, and a lot of it is based in hard facts, people still insist on the same old unproven chestnuts.

And it’s not that I don’t respect people’s views, because we are all entitled to one. But whatever excuse the illegal downloader subscribes to, there is one undeniable fact. Downloading illegally is plain wrong! Unfortunately it is that simple statement, which takes a really long time for illegal downloaders to process. Flat out wrong, no justifications, only excuses, some good but most are just plain awful. To state that “I am poor/wasn’t going to buy it/against DRMs”, and so on, really doesn’t give you the right.

I think a lot of this comes from the little white lies that we tell ourselves!

“It’s a big money grabbing publishing house that can take the hit!”

“It harms no one!”

“Software is copying, not theft!”

“I wouldn’t have bought it anyway!”

“I can’t afford it!”

“I hate DRM’s!”

And my personal favourite:

“Hey, **** you *****! I am an illegal downloader and I ****** do what I ******* well please *******. Kiss my ******* you piece of **** next time I **** and I’ll ******* and then ****** while ***** your mother!”

There are some arguments that you just can’t answer back too! Some have valid points, very few mind you, but the rest of the illegal downloaders hide behind them!

In my mind only two points have merit; one, they experience software issues with the DRM product and illegally download it. Second they would like to play the game without the DVD in the drive. But there are crack sites that just host the modified exe file that allow you to play the game!

But both of points have merit because the person has bought the product in the first place!

I don’t think illegal downloaders have realised the severity of it all. And the true means test here is the cracker groups themselves. Who have almost started pleading with people to actually support the publisher companies and buy the products?

[Images of cracking groups, these are the nfo files that come with the cracks and illegal downloads. The message in the red circle is clear with them all support the publishers!]

The people to whom illegal downloaders owe so much too, beside the publishing house, crackers are almost begging P2P networks to stop pirating PC games and buy it! And it’s only fair isn’t it, that when you take someone’s work, you’d buy it? If you went into a restaurant and the food was ok, it’s your right as a consumer to complain, or never go back, not to keep going back and never pay! Then claim the food is rubbish, no lasting content, or too expensive.

But I think the main problem these days is illegal downloaders have wrongly justified their position. Using a number of childish excuses to overlook the fact that they are fundamentally stealing a product! Claiming that you wouldn’t buy it in the first place seems like the silliest excuse. This is the biggest contradiction; an illegal downloader is not interested in buying it, but still interested enough to actually steal it. No one steals things because it is worthless!

So the illegal downloader, say a young male, possibly in college who favours games/movies with blood, guts, and killer moves. Why would they download the latest my little pony/ carebears movies? At first it seems to lend credit to the excuse that people download because they can!

But we forget the human traits of storing and gluttony. We call them packrats, where someone will not throw anything out regardless if it is of any actual use. With data, this is even more of a problem. Memory, or hard drive space is so cheap, it seems like a waste not to fill it! It’s been hard coded into our brains, and downloading illegally for fills the very same need. That need to horde and store, just in case we have a bad nuclear winter!

Illegal downloaders don’t do this often; downloading media they have no intention of using, but still hide behind this as if it was the norm. The reason why they download is because after years, you come to realise one fundamental thing. Illegal downloaders have been so glutinous that they have over saturated their viewing content. They have downloaded so much, so when they see a link for something different, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”, and they think “why not!” Even if they have no idea what it is, but still download just in case!

I suppose what really boggles the mind, and it took me a long time to understand this. Why would you want to illegally download something that isn’t worth something!

I put it to you that Illegal material is worth something, and why people download illegally. And if it is worth something then this means it is stealing!

If it is stealing then is it not fair to contribute something back to the publishers? To keep them going, to allow them to run, and publish more games so you can keep illegally downloading!

What would you think?

(The number of days between the release of a PC Game, to the day that someone is able to search, download, and play it illegally?)

A quick explanation: Cracks are the game files that have been altered and had the security DRM removed from them. As in they have been “cracked” opened. Workarounds are game files that still have the DRM in some form, but it has been fooled into believing that the game is legal.

 

 

I have known this for some time; it’s not a secret or even an unwritten rule. It’s just one of those things that people know and yet can’t tell you why it is true. But if I were to put it more accurately I have assumed it’s the same day as the release! In my experience I have found this to be true of every game, beside the odd exceptions.

Out of all the games release, the exceptions are so few and far between that you can practically list them all. Since the dawn of PC gaming I can’t name more than a handful of games that have been pirate free for 10 days or more. I keep coming back to this list thinking I missed hundreds, but off the top of my head they are:

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory 422 days
Alone in the Dark [2008] 55 Days
Bioshock 10 Days
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena 26 Days
The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom 34 Days

 (If you can think of any others, Please post them in the comments section!)

Oh and then there is the case of the two Sims 2 Expansion games, Nightlife and University. Both games come with a complete work around, and you are able to download and play illegally. But for some reason no known cracks exist! This is strange, but I am guessing that cracker groups, on their busy work schedule, never got around to these or just plain forgot!

When we look at the current releases of PC games; and even I admit that the dataset isn’t as large as I would like it to be. But from these results we see that the majority of games, 63%, are cracked before or on the release date! One day after the release and you’re looking at 84%, and by the second day 92% of games have already been cracked. I suspect that as time goes on, and I collect more data, I expect the three percentage figures to only grow.

 

What can we take from this?

I suppose the first thing; it doesn’t paint a good picture for DRM products. I mean if you compare this to some other product, say seat belts for cars! The sales man tells you there is a 63% chance that this seat belt won’t hold in a crash! Personally I am looking at another car, in the 37% bracket! Then you find out that 100% the cars will be broken, fatally, in some way it might be in 1 or 422 days!

Well hell, I am walking!

The second question is why does nothing seem to work? If it does work, it seems to be one Game, and only one time? If I show you the table again, and tell you the DRM that protects them you get an inkling into why these seem to fail.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory 422 days StarForce 3
Alone in the Dark [2008] 55 Days SecuROM v7 + SecuROM PA
Bioshock 10 Days SecuROM v7 + SecuROM PA + Serial
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena 26 Days Tages + Solidshield
The Settlers 7: Paths to a Kingdom 34 Days Ubisoft DRM

 

At the time they were brand new ways of protecting the digital media. Only the SecuROM seems to have struck gold with 2 games, and we are specially talking about the SecuROM PA DRM, and not the SecuROM v7 which still remains ineffective as it ever did!

But you have to realise that Alone in the Dark and Bioshock were release quite close to each other. Yes that is the secret that the more time a protection system is out there, the more time Crackers have to play and experiment in removing them.

With the SecuROM PA system, this was an online activation system, one of the first of the era. And as you can see the first time was good, the second time, ok, and the third? As I said, the more time someone gets their hands on your protection system the more time they have to exploit weaknesses!

But what about these current always online activation DRMs, like the new Ubisoft DRM, and the much shadowed EA DRM. Well for starters the crack for EA always online activation didn’t exist straight away. The First game with the DRM was Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, had a work around posted, not a crack. But because this was only 3 days after the game, and the game itself was wildly unpopular, it fell to the sidelines. I think 10 days later a true crack existed, but it was still a partial work around, but please don’t quote me!

As for the new Ubisoft DRM, it being most noted for the amount of boasting and failing. The biggest fail, that as it was cracked within 24 hours Ubisoft were still boasting about it. Well this time, it was Ubisoft dancing the Hempen jig. (Old pirate talk, for hanging, please don’t ask how I know; meaning that Ubisoft hung themselves!) What people don’t realise about this DRM, is that it is extremely clever, and all the cracking groups have a great respect for it. Now that counts for something?!? Doesn’t it?

All these DRM’s, they are all trying to be too clever, with varying degrees of success. But the problem with that is once people know how you are doing it, and the crackers are very good at removing it. It no longer becomes a challenge, it almost become the same repeatable steps to breaking the software. (And yes I know I am over generalising to a fault.)

But what I am really getting too is that DRMs tend to protect the game in the same way every time. So if SecuROM v7 does it this way, you can bet, SecuROM v8 (Just released), is still going to have the same fundamental flaws. (First game with SecuROM v8, which I know of, is Medal of Honor [2010], “-1” if you were wondering!)

Now you might not realise it, having to break something in one particular way each time is a strength, and one we take advantage of. Without spilling the beans, what we do is make our products crackable but only in one way; the longest possible. Another thing; DRMs are left to fend for themselves; we feel this is a big mistake.

When 92% games are illegally available within 2 days of the release date. It is not hard to believe that piracy is probably the greatest reason in killing the PC industry. Funny though, we at WarFace respect the Crackers, for the challenge and the technical skill. It’s just a shame that cracks are released to non-sceners, because most illegal downloaders don’t deserve it!

The teacher stands before the class. “Children, today we are going to answer the question of piracy?”

 The little boys and girls, all beaded eyed and fixed on the teachers professional authority, are hanging on every word.

 “Now hands up who here is a pirate?”

 A number of hands fill the air! And the teacher begins tipping the air with the edge of her pencil as she begins to count the hands held high.

 “Well done, hands down, now who here was a pirate last year?”

 Again the hands flood the air, the teacher begins counting again.

If only it was that easy! And you are under no obligation to raise your hand, but the chances are that everyone has tried it at least once. Even if they haven’t downloaded, they probably have borrowed from a friend. And why not? Sharing is one of human’s most profound abilities, and yet at times we confuse piracy with sharing. But it’s not; it is more like stealing!

 But software piracy or illegal downloading is an oddity. While all the uploaders get all the credit, publishers don’t seem to get anything in return. It is normally here when pro-pirates jump in stating something along the line of “money grabbing”. But do we say this because it is easier to steal from someone who has so much?

 Yes Publishers make a profit, and do well, but doing better means more titles for the gamer. If I lend ten friends a 1 dollar each, and only three pay me back. Next time I can only lend three new friends a dollar, because I have no more. And that simply is what is happening to the Gaming industry. Piracy is a problem and because of the shortfall in returns publishers are taking fewer risks.

 Ultimately it’s the gamer that suffers, whether he be a pirate or land lubber!

So is Piracy growing…? That is a real tough question, because not everyone would put up their hand! And that’s not a criticism, that’s smart! Another thing that WarFace wants to address, suing people is the biggest waste of energy since an air-conditioned room full of servers! We don’t want to punish pirates or illegal downloaders; we want to encourage sharing, with publishers too!

 However, I believe piracy is not only growing, but it is flourishing. Unfortunately torrents and file sharing is something that can be picked up real easy. With little information, people can install the software and start looking for files that they want to download. The list is endless, and fairly easy to find.

Analytical Essay # 61832 :: Piracy in the Video Game MarketAn analysis of the issue of piracy in the video game market.

Written in 2004; 899 words; 3 sources; MLA; $ 31.95

http://www.academon.com/Analytical-Essay-Piracy-in-the-Video-Game-Market/61832

 From the Paper:

“Sales of counterfeit video games are increasing worldwide. In 2003, video game executives joined a coalition of movie, software and music companies to appeal for help from the United States government, citing that they had lost a combined $20 billion due to piracy in 2002 (Kent, 2003). Video game piracy “is more than a $1 billion industry,” according to Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, the trade organization that represents the games industry (Kent, 2003). “It is well over $2 billion worldwide if you include all piracy, which would include PC games.””

Global Software Piracy Study “Sixth Annual BSA and IDC Global Software Piracy Study”http://global.bsa.org/globalpiracy2008/index.html

 Working together, governments, software companies, and BSA are making progress in stopping the illegal theft and use of PC software products. But piracy remains a serious problem in all countries. The key findings of this study are:

 Piracy down in many nations: The rate of personal computer (PC) software piracy dropped in 2008 in about half (57) of the 110 countries studied, remained the same in about a third (36), and rose in just 16.

 Piracy up on a global basis: However, the worldwide PC software piracy rate rose for the second year in a row, from 38 percent to 41 percent, largely because PC shipments grew fastest in high-piracy countries such as China and India.

 Dollar losses up: The retail value of unlicensed software — representing revenue “losses” to software companies — broke the $50 billion level for the first time in 2008. Worldwide losses grew by 11 percent to $53 billion. Excluding the effect of exchange rates, losses grew by 5 percent to $50.2 billion.

PC Game Piracy Examined, [Page 4] The Scale of Piracyhttp://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_4.html

 Piracy as a Proportion of Total Internet Usage

 While the sites which provide links to pirated material are at the top of the web popularity list, there’s evidence that Peer to Peer (P2P) traffic in particular is monstrously high as a proportion of total Internet traffic. This Report from Multimedia Intelligence shows that at present, P2P traffic makes up approximately 44% of all consumer Internet traffic globally (33.6% in North America). Similarly, this data from Ipoque also points to P2P traffic accounting for a large proportion of all Internet traffic, as much as 54% in places like Southern Europe. Both data sources point out that the vast majority of P2P data currently being shared is, as you’d expect, pirated material, with 70% of it being audio and video files (i.e. songs and movies). The data paints a fairly solid picture of the Internet being absolutely saturated with pirated material, where up to half of all Internet traffic can be composed of illegally shared files at any time. 

Piracy a growing concern in B.C.By The Vancouver Sun December 15, 2007

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/business/story.html?id=cef1eaca-c64e-464b-b736-1539643df863

 “It’s a difficulty within our industry,” said Daniel Brady, general manager of Burnaby-based Blue Castle Games, which makes games for five different platforms. “Piracy is more prevalent in the PC games, and there is a certain degree of protection in consul games. But as consoles are around for a while, people figure the machines out and piracy really takes off.”

 anielle Parr, executive director of Toronto-based Entertainment Softwear Association of Canada, said video game piracy is a growing problem, costing North American companies $3 billion globally. Here at home, Canadians are worse than their American cousins when it comes to waving the skull-and-crossbones flag. A recent ESAC survey of gamers reported 17 per cent of Americans admitted to owning a pirated video game, while exactly double that number, 34 per cent, of Canadians confessed.

 I recently found that BSA did admit to some errors! But what they have done is to take a broad guess as to the illegal costs, and assumed that every pirate unit is one direct sale. This has led to much criticism, partly because many court rulings have been based on it.

While I can understand the pirates and their banner of “One illegal download is not one Direct Sale!” This is now beginning, to pain the ears more than a child’s cry! I can also understand that the BSA only stated that the potential loss, because they wanted to show the market size of piracy. Good intentions landed them in hell.

 
 

 At the end of the year TorrentFreak releases a top 10 chart of the most illegally downloaded. These are the top 10 charts of 2008 and the top 5 charts of 2009. From watching the illegal torrents ourselves, I don’t believe that they watched every illegal torrent. But I do believe they have put some work into it and that it has a strong creditability.

What should be taken from this is not the number of times a game was actually downloaded. But if you look at the download in position one, for both 2008 and 2009, what is the difference? By looking at the top 5 positions, and calculating the increase, you find some startling conclusions. 

Spot Number 2008 2009 Increase of
1 1,700,000 4,100,000 241%
2 1,070,000 3,200,000 299%
3 940,000 2,350,000 250%
4 860,000 2,100,000 244%
5 830,000 1,850,000 223%

 The average difference between all the number spot is an increase of 251. This backs up the claim that piracy is growing, and will be very interesting to see what 2010 holds. Results should be out at the end of December this year.

 These figures show a more than double in the number of downloads for each of the top 5. I find it hard to believe that 2009 had much better games that people wanted and didn’t want to pay for. I can more likely believe that people have found downloading games very easy. This would explain the nearly 250% increase in piracy across the board. 

PC Games 14% of 2007 Retail Games Sales; World of Warcraft and Sims Top PC Sales Chartsby Aaron Linde Jan 24, 2008 5:16pm CST

http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/50939

 Data from the sales-tracking firm NPD reveals that retailers sold 267.8 million games in 2007, 36.4 million of which were PC titles. Console games brought in $6.6 billion, selling 153.9 million units total, while portable software hauled a record $2 billion in revenue with 77.5 million units sold. 

1 World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade 2.25 million
2 World of Warcraft 914,000
3 The Sims 2 Seasons Expansion Pack 433,000
4 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 383,000
5 Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars 343,000
6 Sim City 4 Deluxe 284,000
7 The Sims 2 281,000
8 The Sims 2 Bon Voyage Expansion Pack 271,000
9 Age of Empires III 259,000
10 The Sims 2 Pets Expansion Pack 236,000

 

 Now if you take into account the sales figure of 2007, which related to the download figures ending 2008 by torrentfreak. When you look at these figures two things really stand out.

 Firstly the top 2 figures are games that are not pirated. The problem with pirating the top 2 games is that they require a serial key, which you have to log on to a server with. The Game Company can ban serial keys if people distribute them, therefore kicking them out. This game is an online game, which means that it is very hard to circumvent. Therefore you can see the figures for these are well above the figures for any of the other games, which are easily cracked.

 The second is the huge gap left between the sales figure and the download figures. While I only have three “download” figures for the PC game sales. What you can see here is the downloaded figure is far greater than the purchases. 

  Game Sales Illegal Downloads
1 World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade 2.25 million  
2 World of Warcraft 914,000  
3 The Sims 2 Seasons Expansion Pack 433,000  
4 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 383,000 830,000
5 Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars 343,000 860,000
6 Sim City 4 Deluxe 284,000  
7 The Sims 2 281,000 1,150,000
8 The Sims 2 Bon Voyage Expansion Pack 271,000  
9 Age of Empires III 259,000  
10 The Sims 2 Pets Expansion Pack 236,000  

 As you can see from the results it suggests that Piracy for PC Games is rising, and at least twice as much as sales. Please note that I have used the word “suggest”, I would like to have a bucket of statistics before I add “heavily”. This also points out the glaring hole in the piracy issue. Not only is there a complete lack of people taking measurements of the piracy world, but even on the business side there seems to be a refusal of releasing measurements.

Pirates have the perfect right to claim that it is not a problem or that sales losses are made up and over exaggerated. Because when Publishers claim something with no facts to back it up, how else are you to convince them? This being said, what little evidence there is, only supports Publishers, Pirates need to stop pretending and hiding behind the childish excuses that hold no water.

The first thing that amazes me; there is honour amongst pirates. Well most of the time!

If you don’t know how the torrent system works, then this is a quick run down! Basically you look for an illegal torrent file; this is a pointer to the latest movie/game/music/whatever. You double click, and it loads into your torrent client and away you go! It starts downloading, when you reach 100%, you can stop the torrent and you have the latest film on your hard drive.

It sound so simple, and it is. Basically the program is split into pieces and downloaded to the hundreds of people who want it. These people are called Leechers or Peers. Then there are people who have the file but share pieces out to those that don’t have it, Seeders. If everyone shares these pieces around, you can imagine how quickly the file would be downloaded.

Once you have gotten all the pieces from the internet there is no need for you to seed. It seems silly that illegal downloaders, who are fundamentally stealing a program, would hang around giving pieces of the files to others so they can steal it too! No it would seem more plausible that they would download and go, too play the latest game without being tracked! But it doesn’t work like that, and where the honour among thieves comes in.

This is what a lot of people don’t realise! That your information is logged, and I am not talking about your IP address because that really is not as important as you might think. But what is important, and often understated, is what kind of pirate you are!

On some sites, in the comments section, you’ll see:

How do you install the program? (noob!)
Or:
Please Seed!
Or:
Plz Seed..! (for coolness!)

These people don’t realise it, but they have just become a part of the unwitting joke of the P2P networks. And they are probably noobs too!

If someone seeds a program, they start getting a score which reflects that they share. The same with a person that doesn’t share, they become known as a leecher. Computers track this information and start shutting off seeders and peers on the network. Your connection gets slower and slower, but because it’s a gradual process and you won’t notice it. Even if there are thousands on the network, you’ll be scratching your head wondering why you have a 1kb download rate!

So what kind of pirate are you?

If you are constantly asking for people to seed, I think you have your answer!

So there are two types of illegal downloaders, the honest and dishonest! Who would have guessed there could be such a thing? Well its true, and even better, the sub groups within the P2P networks get even more complex. It’s almost like a community of people! For example there can’t be any more dishonest than a dishonest illegal downloader, can there? Can a woodchuck chuck wood?

You’d be wrong, for any action in life, there is always a reaction. So if people are going to start tracking your Leecher or Seeder life style, and if you are going to be a leech; then wouldn’t it be clever to have some kind of program to counter this. Of course there is, tonnes of them! From programs that directly edit the statistics file of your torrent client. So you edit the uploaded and download amounts. To programs that intercept packets, giving out a fake ratio. So it looks like you are constantly seeding, but in fact you aren’t.

Then there is the other side of the coin, the sharing illegal downloader, where people who seed can be invited to special groups. Called private torrents, these are almost exclusive clubs, which eliminate the riffraff from the P2P networks. So we have the elitist, the common man, and even the criminals! The more you look into the whole community, the more you realise, this world of computers is a human thing.

This stuff is all fascinating, and it seems odd that an anti-piracy group is talking so openly about it. But that’s the point, no one is! People, on the anti-piracy side of the fence, are blindly investing in products. They have no idea why the problem is there in the first place. WarFace is looking at illegal downloading and studying it, because to win a war, it’s as simple as the cliché, to know your enemy!