Rime's Denuvo Defeated: Developer Gets To Work On DRM Free Version As Performance Hit Details Emerge

from the that-was-fast dept

As we had recently discussed, Tequila Works, makers of RiME, had promised pissed off customers that once the game was cracked and its Denuvo DRM defeated, it would release a Denuvo-free version of the game via a patch. The crack of the game came about almost immediately after this statement was made, because of course it was. To their credit, Tequila Works made good on its promise of a patch, while also blaming the use of Denuvo on Grey Box, its publisher.

But there’s a secondary story here. The actual impact DRM has tended to have throughout its history has been mostly to annoy legitimate customers by either keeping them from playing the game they purchased at all, or by resulting in negative impacts on game performance. For RiME, it appears the issue is the latter, and the person who cracked the game is offering details of how Denuvo tried desperately to turn the dial on its software up to eleven, almost certainly impacting performance of the game.

In a fanfare of celebrations, rising cracking star Baldman announced that he had defeated the latest v4+ iteration of Denuvo and dumped a cracked copy of RiME online. While encouraging people to buy what he describes as a “super nice” game, Baldman was less complimentary about Denuvo. Labeling the anti-tamper technology a “huge abomination,” the cracker said that Denuvo’s creators had really upped their efforts this time out. People like Baldman who work on Denuvo talk of the protection calling on code ‘triggers.’ For RiME, things were reportedly amped up to 11.

“In Rime that ugly creature went out of control – how do you like three fucking hundreds of THOUSANDS calls to ‘triggers’ during initial game launch and savegame loading? Did you wonder why game loading times are so long – here is the answer,” Baldman explained. “In previous games like Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, NieR Automata, Prey there were only about 1000 ‘triggers’ called, so we have x300 here.”

Those triggers are callbacks from the game to Denuvo’s servers to verify it’s legitimacy. This increase in triggers was almost certainly designed to make the game harder or more laborious to crack, though that obviously didn’t work. But, as Baldman continues, the shocking 300k triggers just in the launch and loading screens was only the start. After a mere thirty minutes of gameplay, he recorded two million triggers. It’s worth noting that RiME’s rollout didn’t go off as smoothly as the developer wanted, largely because of performance issues being reported by those who bought it. Baldman attempted to explain why at least part of those woes were likely this roided-up version of Denuvo mucking up performance.

“Protection now calls about 10-30 triggers every second during actual gameplay, slowing game down. In previous games like Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, NieR Automata, Prey there were only about 1-2 ‘triggers’ called every several minutes during gameplay, so do the math.” Only making matters worse, the cracker says, is the fact the triggers are heavily obfuscated under a virtual machine, which further affects performance.

It seems pretty clear that whatever the percentage of the performance troubles RiME had that are the result of Denuvo, that percentage number is not zero. The DRM is having a performance impact at some level and it seems likely that having it ramped up so high would only increase the draw on power it needs to run. Denuvo is already denying that its software was responsible for the performance issues, but that should be easily cleared up now that Tequila Works is releasing a Denuvo-free version.

What remains unclear is why any developer or publisher would use Denuvo any longer. Pissing off your legitimate customers for protection that can be measured in hours is no way to build a customer base.

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Companies: grey box

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Comments on “Rime's Denuvo Defeated: Developer Gets To Work On DRM Free Version As Performance Hit Details Emerge”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There are ISPs who will hate the change as well.

A spam of calls to a specific range, made by a severely obfuscated sender and without the normal patterns of MMOs, copy protection or the likes…

Denuvo would be on top of the stack of “spam-throttling” for ISPs!

We are dealing with legislation, protection technologies and obfuscation cancelling eachother out and the internet being a virtual predecessor to “chip in neck” like smartphone metadata…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There are ISPs who will hate the change as well.

It’s probably not calling the DRM servers for all of that, but rather passing some calculation values through the "heavily obfuscated … virtual machine".

A number of copy protection hardware dongles work in this way. Put a small CPU on the dongle, and embed some vital but infrequently-accessed piece of the game’s code on the processor. Attach the dongle via USB and when you need that calculation performing, call the dongle to perform the calculation.

It’s a difficult solution to implement because it requires the calculation to be sufficiently obscure that a clever cracker can’t work out what the calculation does and re-implement it on the PC side, thereby bypassing the copy protection. If your code isn’t really doing anything very interesting then the cracker will work out what the dongle-based calculation is doing and work around it.

My guess is that Denuvo is doing something similar, but entirely on the PC side, hiding the calculation it’s doing behind a maze of obfuscation, rather than hiding it completely off the CPU. This approach is pretty much doomed to eventual failure, especially now that the crackers know how to make it through the "maze".

That would also explain why Denuvo causes such performance issues; it would be having to build the maze in memory and make the CPU run through it every time Denuvo is called, slowing down execution of the rest of the game’s code.

Seems like a silly system that’s guaranteed to fail eventually, but that goes for pretty much every form of DRM that attracts the attention of a sufficiently capable cracker.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re:

They’re getting so good at this cracking DRM … I’m waiting for the day that the crack is released BEFORE the game is.

Technically, that sort of already happened back in the 80s. It used to be legal to produce and sell software designed to copy other commercial software, especially games. One company released a series of disks called "Kracker Jax" for the C64, that contained parameters, which were small programs designed to fix copies of specific games so that they worked.

One of the volumes had a parameter for the EA game Marble Madness. EA used the exact same protection on pretty much every game they released for the C64 after that, which meant that the Marble Madness parameter worked on all of them. I think one of the parameters for an Epyx game also worked on a few other games that came out after.

So technically, the crack was available for some games before they had even been released. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:


Here’s what wasn’t let it in after three or four attempts:

All these DRM pieces are based on the problem of piracy while insisting isn’t a problem. Techdirt always CHEERS failure of DRM. Here’s why.

Techdirt’s position is that DRM does more harm to the company than brings benefits. — It’s mere coincidence that makes theft easy for pirates.

Yet the fools running companies just stubbornly continue to worry about piracy! Should just put products on torrent sites, and wait for the money to roll in, right? Why don’t they take Techdirt’s brilliant advice?

Because if the cultural milieu were to shift fully to notion that all content / software should be free — including without advertising — then HOW EXACTLY does a company ever get any income?

… It doesn’t. Piracy itself is possible only when small relative to the number of honest people who pay the pittance, else the system would collapse and no new products put out.

Pirates are taking value, not trading. To protect easily-stolen intellectual work from the lazy and greedy is precisely why the Copyright and Patents Clauses are in the US Constitution. New gadgets don’t change the moral ground though do facilitate theft from creators.

The above seems a lucid argument to me, entirely supported by the last hundred years of mass entertainments. — Mass re-production by gadgets made intellectual work MORE valuable, not less! Copyright has directly enriched millions of people, and offers the rest expensive-to-make entertainments for a pittance.

But here at Techdirt every piece on copyright jeers at the very notion of “intellectual property”, and especially jeers at attempts to get income if means controlling copies. They keep chanting “new business model” without ever a working example that doesn’t actually rely on the current moral milieu, of creators deserving rewards, remaining in place.

Repeats endlessly. The pirates here at Techdirt simply refuse to concede that creators have any rights at all. They don’t have a cogent argument, only demands to be entertained for free.

And that’s why I conclude that Techdirt is simply piratey kids having no concern for producers.

Anonymous Coward says:


out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

TOR not working out for you, fuckwit? Blame My_Name_Here. Your fellow troll has been going on a campaign, claiming people shouldn’t run TOR exit nodes, because only a pirate would do so.

Is out_of_the_blue a pirate? Since he uses TOR, it must be true!

Chuck says:


I’m going to debunk your entire premise in a single sentence, and then spend much longer explaining it to you. Ready? Here we go:

Your argument is bogus because RIME did not make enough money in the less-than-24-hours before the DRM was cracked to justify any of the problems that DRM causes.

Confused? Ok, let me break this down for you.

Before I do, though, I should say this: Techdirt isn’t pro-piracy. They’re anti-idiocy. The problem (well, the main one at least) with DRM is that it fails to achieve the sole purpose for which it is designed. ANY product or service which fails to achieve its primary goal is, by design, a bad product, and any company that would sell such a product knowing it DOESN’T WORK is full of idiots.

In fact, normally, they’d be criminals, too. In most industries, if you make a product that has a fatal design flaw that prevents it from doing the one main thing that it’s supposed to do, and sell it anyway, that’s called fraud. For example, if you make a baby car seat and it does not keep the baby restrained in even a slow, 15MPH crash situation, that’s just a straight up defective product.

Now, back to the subject at hand. Here’s the catch with DRM: because the ENTIRE CONCEPT of DRM is based on a flatly untrue assumption – that DRM can prevent, or even substantially mitigate, piracy – then the entire industry relies on the idea that their product can be defective and still be sold, under the entirely unfounded theory that, if it even DELAYS piracy a LITTLE BIT, that’s enough to justify a game studio buying their product.

And therein lies the twin problems with every single argument in favor of DRM.

First, you presume it works. Despite being the single most effective DRM on the market today, Denuvo got cracked in just ONE DAY. This also despite the fact that, as we now know, this wasn’t even a version of Denuvo that had EVER been released before.

In other words, a totally new version of the most effective DRM ever was still cracked in a single day.

Second, you presume that, even if it had worked, it would improve sales. In other words, even if the DRM remained uncracked for weeks or months or a whole year, your assumption is that every time a game goes another day without a cracked version available for download, a certain number of would-be pirates give up and go purchase the game.

This is the same assumption that the music industry has been making for the past 26 years and counting. That a pirated copy equals a lost sale. But here’s the thing, buddy: THAT’S CERTIFIED BULLS**T.

There are many, many reasons for piracy. Yes, some pirate video games because they don’t want to spend the money. Have you ever stopped to ask where their money goes if they don’t or can’t pirate a game? Who are these people? Well, mostly, they’re college students. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been a college student, but if you’re at least 20 years old and lived alone, you likely have some idea what it’s like when every time you spend $3 on a cup of coffee, you have to check your bank balance first because you’re not sure you can afford it.

Do you really think someone who has to have an internal debate about purchasing a $3 cup of coffee has $69.99 to spend on a video game? Really?

And this is assuming their motive is even financial. In my case, it’s security. DRM, by its very nature, is software designed not just to prevent tampering with other software, but to be effective, also to prevent tampering with itself. This has lead to all manner of horrible ideas, such as the Sony Rootkit fiasco many years ago. The mere presence of DRM on your computer is a security risk in itself. Why on earth would I ever agree to voluntarily install a new vulnerability on my computer? Why should I have to in order to play a video game? What kind of madness is this?!

And then there’s several other reasons. What if you live in a place with metered internet (or none at all), so you cannot play always-online games unless you have a cracked version that disables these online checks? What if you have a low-end system and the extra, sometimes very extreme performance hit that DRM adds to a game – as in this case right here – is the difference between playing the game and being unable to play it at all? What if your anti-virus software gets engaged in a virtual tug-of-war with the DRM (because DRM often uses the exact same techniques as malware) and they eat 99.99998% of your CPU and burn out your SSD?

And for that matter, what if the game is bad? This is, to me, the best argument in favor of piracy, ever. With piracy, you can try a game for a limited time – I suggest 14 days because that’s how long the “free trials” on shareware games used to be, and those made money – and if the game turns out to be complete crap, you can uninstall it. No harm done. On the other hand, if the game is just freaking amazing, you can go buy a copy, support the developers, and depending on the game in question, you can probably just keep using your pirated copy and enjoy the benefits of a no-DRM version. It’s a win-win for the players AND developers.

Does this explain it to you? I’m sure I can go into SLIGHTLY more granular detail if I need to.

AzureSky (profile) says:


nice to see that ootb is still around and posting as annon…

wonder why he would do that or use tor?

anyway i have no issue paying for software that
1. is well written
2. is well supported
3. works as advertised
4. is priced reasonably

i bought for example dbpoweramp many years ago, and spoon supports his product very well, even told me he didnt give a crap if i just torrented the latest versions rather then getting him to update my lifetime key….because he KNEW i was an owner of his app, AND that because of the pirated version i tried many years ago, he had sold over 50 copies thanks to myself and people who saw me crowing about it on forums and in irc and and and….

on the other hand, i have purchased a shitload of software and games at full price, without pirating or trying them, to find, they either dont work as advertised, or arent maintained/updated, or worse, both.

just go down my steam list and you can see tons of games that i played very little despite buying them at/near or ever before launch, because of bugs.

just cause 3 is a great example, the devs admit theres a memory leak, you need at least 16gb ram (i have always had more then that) but, even with plenty of ram and a beastly system the game still runs poorly, and eventually had to be restarted because, the memory leaks lead to funnier and funnier visual bugs.

i purchased it at full price at launch, luckly was able to get money back, and then was GIVEN a copy and, to this day, it still runs poorly, and has far to many bugs.

every single elder scrolls game either by bethesda or zos has launched with beta or even alpha state quality bugs, yet i own every one since daggerfall and mostly purchased at/near or before launch….knowing they would eventually fix them or the community would. still shouldnt be paying full retail price for beta or alpha quality work…specially when then on top of it, they add DRM that adds more bugs.

the number of games back in the cd/dvd days that i had to image with blindwrite then use a virtual drive or nocd/nodvd crack on, that i fucking owned, because, the game didnt like my drive or my system for some reason.

the guys being several games i own actually patched them using cracks from megagames…..(1:1 match for one game, using a razor crack, the other was paradox crack…ones im 100% sure where patched using cracked files)

the devs of Unreal 2: XMP put out a “crack” for the installer that removed the cd check because around 1/2 the people trying to install with legit disks where being told their disk wasnt legit..

you defend drm, you defend the dmca and draconian copyright bullshit OOTB but you dont defend those of us who are harmed by it..

the last 5 times i pirated a game…it was a game i owned, but the cracked copy…actually functioned…where the steam/origin/etc copy due to drm. was unplayable….(drm servers down or the like..)

Anonymous Coward says:

“What remains unclear is why any developer or publisher would use Denuvo any longer. Pissing off your legitimate customers for protection that can be measured in hours is no way to build a customer base. “

Not at all unclear. Most of the publishing houses aren’t “building a customer base”. They already have one and they treat it with utter contempt. Arguably, it doesn’t matter either because this same customer base keeps coming back over and over against despite knowing the reputation said publishing houses have (Ubisoft, Sony, EA, etc). All of the outrage on the intarnets is largely squeaky wheels while the majority of gamers don’t give a rat’s ass and will happily buy generation after generation of DRM laden games.

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