Starforce's Amusing "Proof" That Its Copy Protection Doesn't Cause Problems

from the funny-definition-of-proof dept

Yesterday we noted that Russian copy protection firm Starforce seemed to have a bit of a problem with shooting its mouth off without thinking in threatening to sue Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow over negative comments on their product (comments that you can find all over the web). We pointed to the ridiculous publicity stunt “competition” the company had announced back in December to try to dispel the rumors about problems with the software. If you read that post, you’ll notice we picked through the fine print to point out that it was basically impossible to win the contest. They put in all sorts of conditions that made it clear that you’d have to be crazy to even enter. What we didn’t realize was that the deadline to enter was yesterday. So, now Digg is pointing to the company’s announcement today that the lack of entrants proves that the complaints about their software are “pure fiction.” Given the extensive nature of the complaints, that’s pretty hard to believe. It seems a lot more likely that no one wanted to attempt to meet all of the conditions of the contest (including flying to Moscow at your own expense with a computer still under warranty) when the company promised to publicly make fun of anyone who didn’t meet all the conditions of the contest. Update: Apparently, the folks who are pushing the boycott of Starforce games have come up with the perfect response. Based on Starforce’s own logic, they’re demanding that Starforce show up at their offices to prove that the copy protection software doesn’t cause problems. If they don’t take them up, then according to Starforce’s own reasoning, the company is clearly lying.

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Anonymous Coward says:


It does suck ass but the proctection works. I guess anything will work when you lock 20%* of the people out of the market…

For pirates, common workarounds include burning specially modified images on to specific brands of media, using external hard drives, unplugging IDE devices and all kinds of other spooky shit.

For consumners, common workarounds include bending over, grabbing ankles and biting down hard on something.

I tried to pirate Prince of Persia 3 but I failed to get any of the simpler workarounds to bypass StarForce and there is no way I’m going to open up my computer just to play a game.

So do you know what I did when I couldn’t steal the game? Buy it you say? WRONG! I didn’t play it and I don’t really care. This means that Ubisoft basically fucked their paying customers over just to deprive me of a free ride and they actually made less money and had more complaints with it.


*Made up number, probably more, possibly less.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: D'OH!

Long story short: Got a game, looked forward to it, but Starforce on my WinXP x64 didn’t play nice. pwned drivers and hung the game every few minutes.

Result: If I hear a game uses StarForce, will simply not buy it, ever. I doubt I’m alone in that.

Well.. unless Empire at War has it.. then.. I’ll just cry.

Jason (profile) says:

Re: Re: D'OH!

Write to the company who’s game you purchased, and inform them of this fact.

Point out that due to your experiences, you won’t be buying any of their games again, if they continue to use the Starforce copy protection.

Tell them that you will advise your friend and family members to not purchase any of them either.

Be polite in your letter. Use punctuation. Use proper spelling. BE PROFESSIONAL.

Mail the letter. Don’t EMAIL the letter. Companies tend to take more seriously those who put forth the effort needed to physically send a letter letter, rather than just simply bitch in email.

Will it change your current experience? No. But it may prompt the company to stop using Starforce.

Brian says:

Re: Re: Re: D'OH!

I’ve said it before.. I haven’t had any problems with StarForce as far as causing hardware instability. However, I don’t appreciate it it as a paying customer, nor do I think it’s that terribly effective. The game I have requires a legitimate CD serial to play online, so a pirated game is of little value.

Instead of spending countless hours integerating with StarForce the devleoper should have spent that time on refining the game and bug fixing. To be honest the gameplay is now where it needs to be and all things considered I don’t think I’ll buy from them in the future. If they were smart they’d at least distance themselves from SF to at the very least minimize the PR damage.

TechNoFear (profile) says:

Re: Re: Increased the 'prize' to $10,000

StarForce increased the prize to $10,000 last week (24/01/2006). Not much time to fly to Moscow and meet them during business hours before 01/02/2006.
A cynical person would say that increase is just to make the ‘contest’ look more credible to StarForces customers.
But I’m just saying this because I’m a pirate frustrated by StarForce copy protection.
Excuse me, I’m off to the poop deck…arrr!

Screwyluie says:

Re: D'OH!

>>I tried to pirate Prince of Persia 3 but I failed to get any of the simpler workarounds to bypass StarForce and there is no way I’m going to open up my computer just to play a game.

I would say you didn’t try very hard, I’ve never once had to unplug hardware to make any starforce game work, and I have several. the only people it’s stopping are people who refuse to read a couple paragraphs and understand the enemy, and those who actually bought the games.

I chalk this up to typical russians perpetuating a stereotype… russians simply don’t care about the people as long as it serves their own purpose. I know there’s better people in russia, why is it always these people that get noticed.

copy protection only hurts the legal users, this gets proven over and over again.

John Hedge says:

Re: Re: D'OH!

A friend of mine had never played a pirated game in his life. He earns enough money and strongly believes in funding game development. So why would he?

Here’s a reason. He was so annoyed about his brand new, off-the-shelf copy of Painkiller not working on his machine (not sure what the protection on that game was but the principle’s the same) that he took it back for a full cash refund and got himself a bittorrent client instead. Two days later – a fully working pirate version of Painkiller.

Well he TRIED to pay for it. Should he have downloaded the pirate version AND let the shop keep his money for a non-working original??

The Serenity says:

Re: D'OH!

Method 1:

Method 2: Kind of the same, but applies to the game of which you speak:

Information on Starforce: Read post from 13thHour:

Now if only you could find a middle man for your install of software… That way you could re-direct the starforce installation. Or you could try….… it allows the bypass of copy protection in burning DVDs from what I understand.. Could be useful if you created a byte by byte image…. run the game from an ISO using Daemon Tools…

Ironicly enough, I only play Prince of Persia: Two Thrones on Xbox 360 (Xbox release) and I even paid for it…

I sincerely hope the UbiSoft Empire pulls their heads out of their rear and dumps Starforce. Any company created by idiots, for idiots and staffed by idiots is bound to suck it up in the end and it would be ashame to watch Ubi be kicked for it. You can always count on 1 thing though, For Every CD Protection their is a decompilier and a way to crack the exe… all it takes is time and some looking.

Ubi is paying StarForce to protect CDs which they can almost do properly, and in return Ubi still gets its games stolen, ruins their reputation and screws up Combo/DVD drives for the people who actually paid for the software, because after all the people who crack it do not have to worry about it (Most of the time)…

Anyone who can make a business out of insecuring a machine in the name of securing a cd that is never really going to be secure sounds more like a politician

anonymous says:


wow, its obvious that the amount of poeple willing to actually pay for data is getting smaller and smaller. By crating this copy protection software they are only screwing themselvs, so what happens if i cant download/copy a friends disc to play a game……I wont play that game, they need to learn that, to get people to buy their product they shouldnt focus on making it impossible to copy, they need to focus on making people feel that the product is actually worth buying. even if it is an absolutly spectacular product, i still probibly wont buy it, why?? because there are other games that are just as fun that i can get for free as opposed to 50 bucks. and what happens when you cant pirate games anymore???? well, i guess i wont be playing games anymore, thats why tivo was invented, which is probibly the only product that i have bought in years that is actually woth the money i paid for it.

Anonymous Coward says:


Let me start by saying any copyprotection which destabilizes a machine is just wrong. I also don’t have much spare cash lying around so I completely understand the trouble with paying for overpriced software, but this statement really gets to the heart of the matter…
“wow, its obvious that the amount of poeple willing to actually pay for data is getting smaller and smaller.”
If everyone becomes a pirate there won’t be any money to pay for the development of the software. Why should I, as a legitimate purchaser of the software, fund your game playing habit?

Prescott says:

Re: Re: LOL

I am a (and be nice) World of Warcraft subscriber. I pay for games that are good. That is always an option.

But I too dabble in the dark arts and cannot STAND SF. Why is anyone partnering with this Russian mafia feeling malware provider. I wont even touch images for the games that include it.

If you make games no one even wants to pirate you lose on all fronts.

rag says:

Bug Introduction

So, the summary of this is that generally a cracked version of a game binary is a more stable code base.

Maybe it’s time for software developers to face the REAL FACT that it is not possible to copy protect software, just as it is impossible to hide HTML from a browser that you want to render it.

Investing larger and larger sums of money to provide crackers with a greater challenge seems only silly to me. I suppose at least it garuntee’s one sale – crackers buy the software prior to cracking it – generally.

Twisted Matrix says:

Re: CD Copy Protection

Being a game developer myself It seems to me that the obvious solution is to do 2 things.
1. Require that the game be installed using a CD-R or CD-RW drive. These are pretty standard nowdays. Ship the game with a few KB of free space on the CD. During the installation, the game links with the company server to verify that it has not been installed yet and then requests a unique identification which is encrypted along with some machine specific information and written to the CD. The CD is finalized and the game only works for that user on that computer.
2. Offer the game freely as a torrent, on p2p networks, ect. Allow anyone to download and play it for free. Require registration with paypal or similar service. Charge 10 cents per hour of gameplay. Not only will this reduce pirating, it will also let people decide if the like the game enough to keep playing it or by a CD copy. It will also encourage game companies to focus on gameplay instead of graphics. Which would you play longer? Another unreal tournament clone with $5 million worth of photo realistic rendering engine, or a game with an open-ended storyline (eg, your choices change the rest of the games story and ending) with good solid gameplay and super high replay value?

Twisted Matrix says:

Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

Of course I guess we could just embed rootkits into the freely downloadable game which would install keyloggers that wait for the user to pay for somthing online with their credit card.
[popup] thanks for purchasing halo 4! $849.99 has been transferred from your account. $49.99 for Halo 4 and the rest is for all of the other pirated software. [/popup]
Yeah. Rootkits. That could work.
No wait. Sony would probly sue us…

Pingspike says:

Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

In Reply:

1. Double, maybe tripple publishing costs ? not gonna fly.

2. Penalise those who actually like the game enough to play it longer ? Not clever

It is understandable to recoup the gargantuan costs of developing these better games. To cripple your own games for a few users though is not smart.

Copy protection never was ‘protection’ by any streatch of the imagination. As already mentioned its simply a challenge to someone out there with a better knowledge of ‘kung fu’ than the original developer.
It should really be known as ‘copy delay’. Untill cracked then forth as ‘copy pls thx’.

Developers rock.

Publishers bite.

Twisted Matrix says:

Re: Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

>> 1. Double, maybe tripple publishing costs ? not
>> gonna fly.

Comeon man. Howmuch does a CD-R cost when you buy in bulk 5 cents? 3 cents?

>> 2. Penalise those who actually like the game
>> enough to play it longer ? Not clever

Not at all. If you charge 10 cents per hour, considering that most games dont have more than 80 hours of gameplay your looking at $8. Most people are not going to play a game that much unless they really like it and smart companies will make game more fun with more ways to play and replay the game. Even at $8 its a much better deal than dropping $20 bucks at the arcade or paying $49.99 for a new title. Since the game is now a reasonable price pirating will become a thing of the past and the company will make up for lost money (instead of charging customers extra because of expected losses due to pirating)

This is not a new concept people. The mmorpg market has been doing somthing similar for years.

Digrat says:

Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

During the installation, the game links with the company server to verify that it has not been installed yet and then requests a unique identification which is encrypted along with some machine specific information and written to the CD.

Here’s the problem: What if the gamer changes his/her hardware configuration, as may of us do? Would the identification be based on CPU? Because in 3 years, I’ve gone through 4 different CPUs. Would it be based on HD serial number? Because I’ve been through 2 in the last year due to crashes and upgrades. I like the idea, but without at least a little flexiblity in the definition of computer, this one will frustrate players as much as current schemes.

Jack Sombra says:

Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

“1. Require that the game be installed using a CD-R or CD-RW drive………The CD is finalized and the game only works for that user on that computer.”
And user upgrades or replaces pc and game does not work anymore, thus either don’t upgrade or upgrade and replace every game you have? See the problem?
MS tried this with activation and only suceeded in annoying the hell out of everyone. I know people who have legal versions of windows but actually install warez corp versions instead, just so they don’t have to deal with activation when/if their motherboard fries or they decide to do a major upgrade
“2. Offer the game freely as a torrent, on p2p networks, ect”
This is actually probably how things will actually go, though not as simple as “pay by the minute” rather the content will be online while client is installed locally. Without the content client is useless so no worrys about warez while the accounts to access the content are held centrally. MMO games currently work pretty much like this and have virtually zero problems with warez and i fully expect to see sooner or later single player games doing the same.

Tora1188 says:

Re: Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

I see 3 problems with Server-Siding games like this…
1: Too Popular
One of the largest problems in the MMORPG market is when a game gets TOO popular and the servers can’t keep up with the server overload. (For this I cite the free MMORPG, “Silkroad Online” [] This Company has just opened their 4th server 3 weeks ago, and it is ALREADY overpacked to the point where you MAYBE have a 1 in 6 shot of even getting in.
If single player games were run like this, the servers might choke on its own popularity and people would not be able to play their games when they want (hence the point of buying a single player game).
2: LAG!
Given the game is good enough that the above happens, youre faced with the next problem of lag. Playing timing and smooth intensive games like Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six would become VERY unpopular VERY FAST! Which is a shame for these type of games because they rule.
One of the main reasons I play single player instead of online portions of the same game is due to LAG. I can’t stand it, it degrades gameplay, and its a REALLY fast way for my monitor to recieve a hammer through the glass.
3: Old Games?
If this kindof system DOES become useful and the above 2 problems are resolved, then theres this problem. Wat happens to older games? theres simply not enough servers in the entire WORLD to house EVERY game made from here on out.
What this means to a consumer? Watch out, because eventually your copy of Splinter Cell will have its servers jacked to make way for the lastest version of Madden!

DocMenach says:

Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

Being a game developer myself It seems to me that the obvious solution is to do 2 things.
1. Require that the game be installed using a CD-R or CD-RW drive. These are pretty standard nowdays. Ship the game with a few KB of free space on the CD. During the installation, the game links with the company server to verify that it has not been installed yet and then requests a unique identification which is encrypted along with some machine specific information and written to the CD. The CD is finalized and the game only works for that user on that computer.

So you are saying that if I buy a game I only buying it for installation on one computer. What if I buy a new computer and delete the hard drive on my old one? Since the protection only allowed me to install on one computer for one user I now have to buy the software again, even though I no longer have it on my old system. Seems pretty stupid to me.

Anon2006 says:

Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

I can personally say that if the game is good I will pay for it. Take Tribes (1) for example, they had zero copy protection and they still had good enough sales to justify a second game. I had a copy about 3 months before I bought the game, and when I did I bought the big package not just the game. Even after Sierra released Tribes (1) as freeware it maintained a huge following despite part 2 being out and part 3 on it’s way.

Wolfgir says:

Re: Re: CD Copy Protection

The only things that would work is:

1. Make better games and offer more support for it and also support the mod community and create goodwill that will make gamers push each other to play fair. It is called trust – very important when you want customars to biy your products, and continue to do that.

2. Make it work for those that buy the games. The ones that buys the games should have the best game version, the one least likely to FUBAR up your computer, have access to loads of goodies, extras and special things. As a buyer you should feel like a VIP.

Threatening or make it more complicated and people slowly going to turn to lternative forms of entertainment and other areas to spend their money on. Star Force is just a big no no, as are SONY in my home at least until they come up with a good redemption and an excuse.

SF Sucks says:

There's a nice NIN song that describes SF nicely

I buy a lot of games. A new game almost every month, maybe even two if its a good month. I love to play games and its what I do in my free time when I’not coding for a well known defense company. A game playing generation is reaching thirty and we have money to spend. And we?re also not stupid, we want to know exactly what should and shouldn’t be running on our machines. What hurts me the most is that Ubi and other companies didn’t bother telling us that, by buying their games, we’re installing potentially harmful software. We’re not important enough to be allowed the knowledge of what is being done to our property. We should just be grateful that we can give them our money. I’m sad. I’m sad and I’m sorry that I will never again buy a Ubisoft game. Not because it contains malware, but because they decided to break the trust of their loyal customers.


Starfoce Protection is Lame says:

It just sucks !

I for myself got a split up opinion on starforce protected games. on the one hand they simply suck cause the starforce device driver is (just by the fact how it is constructed) a thread to your pc’s security ….also the Packet-loss scenario can cause damage to some drives …or make your computer slow like 1995….

On the other hand I NEVER MANAGED TO OVERRIDE ANY PROTECTION BY MYSELF WITHOUT USING A CRACK before….until starforce came up….

Now all i have to do is make a image myself (with some special burning programms) or get it from the internet. And then just install it (daemon tools is really handy lol) …..and then i DON’T reboot but shutdown and deplug my DVD/CD drives….(Unplugging the power cable is nothing im afraid of …even if i have to “open” my pc for it lol) and THEN reboot….. thats it!

So im playing SCCT, trackmani sunrise, king kong, silent hunter 3…..ect…..if i want to …..without any crack that prevents me from installing patches or anything else ….

Thanx to the good work of those russians( doesen’t a high percentage of copies come from there?? as far as i know hehe) i got a lot easier work …

I support starforce!! Great Work buddies! Although i thought getting payed for make it easier to copy games was illegal back in the old days (much more illegal than just providing nocd patches ect for free …:-)) and u could get sued for it ….but nowadays…well….

Dembonez says:

Copy protection

What about the use of dongles for copy protection. Back in the day, high-end software ($10k plus industrial warez, I mean) would require a Parallel port dongle be connected while running the app. Nothing extra is installed on your PC, no info is sent to the manufacturer and your windows registry is left alone.

We could easily manage this these days, with encrypted USB keys. They’re cheap like borscht to make – just include one in the box of the game I want, require it to be connected during play and away I go. Heck, you could even have the game saves written to the usb dongle, so that if you move to a 2nd or 3rd pc, you can pick up and go from there.

Heck, you could even have the game run in demo mode, (read: crippleware) without the key, just so those who want to try it first get to.

Dembonez says:

Re: Copy protection

When I suggested this, I thought that some development work would be needed. As it is, there are already a few companies providing this type of service:
and many more at

zaphar (user link) says:

Pay games are not the only game in town

There are a number of games out there which are looking at alternative methods of revenue. For MMORPG’s especially advertising or possibly merchandising based off the games player generated content are possibilities. For Single Player games the possibilities of Gaming Tournaments sponsored by hardware/software developers are also other possibilities. And who is investigating these possibilities? Open Source Gaming. Don’t laugh, 🙂 Platforms like Crystal Space and Ogre are getting better and better. Planeshift already has a fairly impressive playable demo available. I fully expect some of these to begin getting mainstream attention. And when they do look out.
The profitable link between Games and Movies has already been shown in the market. What happens when a Production company gets wind of an opportunity to sponsor a MMORPG in return for exclusive rights to movies or books based on the games content. Or a toy company sponsors them for exclusive merchandising rights? The possibilities are endless. And the whole DRM thing becomes a non issue.

13thHouR (user link) says:


Let me start by saying that I do not call Starforce a virus!

I refer to is as ?Trojan Gateway?. Any program that exists in Ring 0 and opens data tunnel to Ring 3 and does not close them after itself is basically a Trojan Gateway.

That in itself is not malicious software, but it is irresponsible of any developer who does not even acknowledge this issue never mind attempt to close the security loophole.

I do not have to go into specific the technical issues of what piggy backing the IDE subsystems does for XP and DMA, as this have been well documented for many years.

Again I will say it?s very irresponsible of any software developer to use the IDE subsystem in such a manner as the DMA step down issue are very well documented.

Personally I have no argument with Star Force technologies in their current incarnation as a security company. What I have problems with is very buggy software being sold via sales spiel to unsuspecting Software Houses who inadvertently pass this onto their end users.

Software houses are not stonewalling end users on technical support; in many cases they really do not know how Starforce IDE protection driver works! That is why they refer peeps to Starforce and that is where the process breaks down.

I have personally monitored Starforce Technologies tech support site, I even posted the well documented bug fixes (Which they deleted and are still giving false information to end users about code 41) they are hostile with end users (Treating the majority as Crackers or Bootleggers), which is not the support package that Software companies thought they where going to get when they bought into SF.

Counter challenge:
I did this more as joke to highlight the stupidity of the rules in Starforce?s Challenge. However I was quite serious, if they can prove these issues are not occurring then I will step back and relinquish my support of Boycott Starforce and publish the findings.

Starforces response to this issue that they are so certain about?

Zero! they will not respond posts, Emails or any other form of correspondence.

Even when I openly offered to work with them to resolve these issues for end users.

Personally I think the only move available to Software houses given Starforces unprofessional stance, is to offer ?No CD? patches for end users. (Some software houses have already done this, to cure all the technical problems and to open up the previously untapped markets that where excluded by SF incompatibilities)

Feel free to come to and keep up to date with this entire issue.

scott says:

I used to love copy protection.

When I was a kid (back when you got your game on a cassette tape…), the copy protection was the best part.

After all, the game itself is designed to be beaten, where’s the fun in that? Whereas the copy protection was designed not to be beaten…

Plus, the kid who could generate copies for folk was far more interesting than the kid who could finish the game.

Looking at the games market nowadays, it seems to me nothing has changed. Actually getting the damn game to run is harder than finishing it, and more fun too…

There seems to be more originality and thought goes into the protection than the stuff they’re protecting.

James (user link) says:

SF problems

I took all the negative comments regarding Starforce protection with a grain of salt, and convinced myself to purchase Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, since i’ve been a big fan of the series since the first releases 10+ years ago.

Although i did believe the negative comments about SF were just from frustrated warez dealers, i found myself facing the same exact problems and in same cases worse than what was reported.

I’ve noticed my PC performance especially with regards to accessing data times from all media to have declined significantly since SF was installed on the system. After removing it and making sure all the known entries of the protection were removed, the performance was boosted to the usual levels.

The second thing that is the more obvious one, was disfunctionality with DVD-writer. I was unable to burn any DVD-R media with the SF drivers installed. Once removed the burner worked properly but with significant performance problems. I was able to burn a 4.7GBs DVD-R in roughly 6mins before i installed PoP3:T2T, but after i did so and SF was installed on my pc it took me 15-16mins for the same 4.7GBs to be burned and i had 3 failed attempts before a succesful one.

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