What's the worst system of protecting against piracy you ever experienced?

ZedClampet

Community Contributor
People complain about DRM now when all you have to do is log into Steam, Windows or Epic, but back in the day you had to do all sorts of stupid things to play your games.

Unfortunately, the name of the game escapes me, but I had one game that had a decoder wheel thingy, and it would give you information when you opened the game, and you had to use the decoder wheel to find the answer and input it.

I remember another game, a CRPG, that gave you a page number and you had to type in the second sentence on that page. Edit-Page of the manual.

So what are the strange things you used to have to do to prove yourself worthy of playing your own games?
 
I don't think I've ever played one of the older games with some arcane piracy protection. From the games I own, the one with the worst DRM was probably Spore, which limited you to installing the game on 3 PCs (later increased to 5), which was already better than their plan of having users authenticate every 10 days. It also included SecuROM, but didn't mention that anywhere, which resulted in a class action lawsuit against EA.

According to Wikipedia, Spore is one of the most pirated games ever because of its DRM policies.
 
gave you a page number and you had to type in the second sentence on that page
Yeah, I had a few of those in the 90s. The big one back then tho was you had to have a disc in the drive to launch the game. That persisted at least until late 00s—I remember Firaxis only released a no-CD patch for Civ4 after they were fully finished with patching the second expansion… that'd be ~2010.

Yeah, Red Alert 3 had that too, altho removed from Steam versions of the game.

There were a lot of horror stories about the likes of SecuROM, Denuvo, SafeDisc, StarForce etc, but I was lucky, I never experienced any system or hardware problems due to DRM. Main annoyances were:
♣ Having to put the disc in the drive to play
♦ Pirates getting a better version of the software than I did
 
Hi Zed this is my contribution to your post.

Way back in the early 1980's games makers resorted to some real odd measures to beat piracy because basically all you had to do to copy a game was to link 2 tape decks together. Some supplied a silly story book but their was a reason for it .... type word 5 on paragraph 4 of page 22 to launch the game. Some did instructions with black ink on purple paper so that when you photo copied it instructions for the 2 colours merged and all you got was a sheet of black ink. Their was however 1 device that beat everything .... see the link , i had one of these.

Multiface 1 at Spectrum Computing - Sinclair ZX Spectrum games, software and hardware

By pressing the red button you got a menu for all the different things it could do but basically players just used it to make a pirate copy of the game. If you gave the game to a person who did not have one of these the screen would open a mess so you saved it at ....... press any key to continue.

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A long time ago i got a pc game that was supposed to be a bit like star wars but all i remember is that the game title had just a year number. After opening the case and becoming the licence holder the instruction INSIDE the box said .... to connect to our servers turn off your anti virus during use. As a pc newbie i did not think this was a good idea so i took the game back and to my surprise the store manager said yes that is a dumb thing to say and even though i had opened the box i got a refund.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Over the years i have got a lot of games i cant use on my latest pc purchase because of security overkill , i put games in new pc and when you HAVE to go through the registration process you get told , email and/or game code are already in use.
 
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Unfortunately, the name of the game escapes me, but I had one game that had a decoder wheel thingy, and it would give you information when you opened the game, and you had to use the decoder wheel to find the answer and input it.

I remember another game, a CRPG, that gave you a page number and you had to type in the second sentence on that page. Edit-Page of the manual.
It may not be the same game, but Legacy of the Ancients came with a wheel, like you're talking about. I think it had 3 sections of the wheel that you had to put in whatever places they tell you, and then you choose the right answer.

Also, the same guys made some other CRPGs, called Questron 1&2. Those games used the manual/page number/sentence/word method you're talking about. Sucks for you if you lost the manual or wheel.

Those were actually the two very things that came to mind when I saw the topic of the thread. Back in those C64 days, I had Nybbler and cracking software to copy games, but it was much harder to copy physical wheels and manuals.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
The "What's the 5th word in the second paragraph on page X" were the worst. They never told you if the paragraph that started on the previous page counted or if they meant the first paragraph that started on page X. Grrrrr.

The one that was the worst for me, though, was whatever security Bethesda used on the first-ever try at DLC. I didn't get the infamous horse armor, but I did get the Razor one as well as a few others. I had just started the Razor quest when my new PC came in, complete with Windows Vista.

The DLC didn't work anymore. It wasn't Vista's fault, though, it was the fact that it was 64-bit, and the DRM was 32-bit. Game over. I don't know when Bethesda finally fixed the issue, but I was long gone by that point.

The only other time I've been unable to play due to DRM has been Sword of the Stars. Something freaked out the DRM for it so it wouldn't recognize player keys anymore. Somebody official posted some sort of show floor demo key that got it working, though, so it wasn't too bad, as long as you didn't want to play against somebody else. Pretty sad that Steam kept selling the game for several months after new keys stopped working, though.

Two fails in... 40+ years of PC gaming? Not bad.

Now about this new EA App....
 
Unfortunately, the name of the game escapes me, but I had one game that had a decoder wheel thingy, and it would give you information when you opened the game, and you had to use the decoder wheel to find the answer and input it.

Ah the decoder wheel. A staple of amiga anti piracy measures. Honestly i kinda had a soft spot for them. They were mostly high quality bits of plastic or card and wasn't too bad. Other ones included looking up key words in a manual or referencing a page in a manual. in lotus turbo challenge 2 you had to flick through the manual find the car tire that matched the screen, enter the number and off you go.

Starforce is probably the worst i've personally experienced. games with starforce simply didn't work. I had the original King Kong game and windows 7 just refused to install it or run it. Its not helped the rumors that starforce bricked machines etc.

The other one? On the amiga was Robocop 3 where gamers had to plug in a security dongle into one of the controller ports to play it. It was supposed to be some super duper unbreakable security. Turned out the hacking/pirate group fairlight cracked it within 5 hours of getting hold of a copy of the game.

Modern vintage gamer has loads of videos on how people beat DRM at the time. Video here:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1cryx7TzqM
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Questions only adults can answer? Like:

What is a radar range?
A) about 40 miles
B) about 140 miles
C) an oven
D) none of the above
E) all of the above

Or these days, they can just show a clock with roman numerals. If you can't figure out the time it's displaying within a minute, you can't play.
 
The worst system was the one I encountered while roleplaying as Gybrush Treetwood in the early 80s. I booted up a floppy disc called Cruise for a Corpse only to encounter the dreaded questions you needed a copy protection booklet /wheel for - https://archive.org/details/cruisecopy/page/n1/mode/2up. I remember trying my absolute best to come up with some clever answer but alas. One of the worst things with those was that you could get one that was off-center, making it very annoying to impossible to find the right answer.
 

Sarafan

Community Contributor
The most absurd were systems that influenced the gameplay directly. Battle for Middle-earth 1 had a system which caused to blow all your buildings in a minute or two if the copy was pirated. Unfortunately it affected also some of the players using the original copies. There was also a DRM system built in Operation Flashpoint. The performance on pirated version degraded in time, making the game unplayable after a few hours or so. This also affected some of the players with original copies. These were the worst examples that I've heard about.
 
The worst system was the one I encountered while roleplaying as Gybrush Treetwood in the early 80s. I booted up a floppy disc called Cruise for a Corpse only to encounter the dreaded questions you needed a copy protection booklet /wheel for - https://archive.org/details/cruisecopy/page/n1/mode/2up. I remember trying my absolute best to come up with some clever answer but alas. One of the worst things with those was that you could get one that was off-center, making it very annoying to impossible to find the right answer.


This. I had Cruise for a corpse on the amiga back in the day and i couldn't understand how it worked. It was more complex then your typical code wheel or keyword check and my young kid brain didn't understand it.
 
those are all bad/annoying, and having played games since the 80's, I seen them... but I still think Vanguard is the worst. Its the anti cheat for Valorant and literally has more access to your PC than most drivers do. When software thinks it has the right to tell you what can and can't run on your PC, it has crossed the line. I don't have first hand experience of it as I don't play that game, but I have helped people with problems caused by it. It can stop other programs running.

Needing the instructions to actually play the game, besides just control schemes, used to be a pain. Especially if you didn't have it.
 

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