We need a petition!
This web site has come into existence due to the engagement of worried fans of the computer game series "Gothic". We fear, that the third part of this game, which is estimated to be released in september, will be provided with a copy protection system,
that is believed to be unacceptable. A lot of commonly used copy protection systems applied with current computer games are even causing serious disadvantages for the user. Having the publisher in mind our effort with this collection of signatures is to point out, that we as customers do not want to accept such disadvantages without protest.
Reasons for this petition
We, the consumers, would prefer Gothic 3 to be published without any copy protection. However, we accept the producerīs concern to prevent unauthorized use of their products, particularly in the beginning of a market launch. The commercial success of Gothic 3 is close to our hearts as well, because we would like to enjoy more episodes of the Gothic series.
But this appreciation is rapidly restricted, if our customerīs interests and well understood customerīs rights are violated by measures of copy protection. Neither we are willing to risk system stability to meet concerns of copy protection, nor would it be acceptable for us to condone methodes of digital rights management.
For us as customers are such device drivers, enforced registrations or disguised retrieving of user data unacceptable, because not essential for the game itself.
The presentation of the latest Starforce version during the recent CeBIT in particular has intensified the resistance against any copy protection program wearing this brand. The russian producer Protection Technology has lost any credit due to its most aggressive and doubtable appearance and a use of any product of this company would do great harm to the Gothic image.
In contrast to that we regard with great favour, that Aspyr Media publisher of Spellforce 2 and Gothic 3 in North America is going to abandon Starforce.
The copy protection system Starforce and its risks
What is Starforce?
Starforce is a controversial discussed copy protection system designed by the developer team Protection Technology. It is assumed, that the functional principle of this copy protection system is based on the determination of angles, that blocks of data are having to each other on the original data storage medium. These angles cannot be reproduced in copies generated with standard record programs e.g. with NERO. In this manner, Starforce protects the program from being used without the original data carrier.
In particular Starforce has been critizised, because of its lack of transparency and due to the risks its usage is suspected to implicate. In fact this copy protection program performs an intrusion deeply into the userīs system but in the end isnīt more efficient in practice than any other copy protection system - finally it is inefficient.
Starforce installs without the userīs knowledge hidden device drivers onto the hard disk and in doing so it gains extensive access rights to the computer system. The aim of such device drivers is to monitor any data stream coming from or moving to any optical drive and to detect any possible manipulaton and to react, if necessary. This means an extensive load for the optical reading device and for the storage medium, which can lead to extraordinary mechanical wear or to a drawback in the driveīs performance. Because of the copy protection, system errors occur increasingly while reading data from the medium, whereby windows is prompted to limit the driveīs speed. Regarding recording devices this can be noticed e.g. during recording in a slowdown of the burning process. In fact the originally performance can be restored but this requires a lot of expertise.
In addition to that there are rumours, that starforce can make a drive inoperative. But still there is no proof for this accusation.
Even if the game is removed from the system, fragments of Starforce still remain, which cannot be deleted easily. According to older versions of Starforce hackers should also have managed to gain access to foreign computer systems using such remains of the program.
It is reported, that data storage media secured with Starforce actually cannot be recognized by some drives. There are also incompatibilities towards other copy protection systems. It could cause problems in certain cases to install two computer games at the same time, if one game is using Starforce as copy protection system and the other game is using Securom. Another problem is, that older versions of Starforce are not being compatible to 64 bit operating systems.
Starforce avoids the execution of game software, as soon as it suspects the chance of beeing fooled. To some extend it is impossible for the user to utilize SCSI drives (emulated drives are often masked as SCSI drives), even if IDE drives are installed. Starforce maintains a so called blacklist containing programs able to emulate optical drives. If such a program is installed, the game software will not run.
Older versions of starforce show the following errors, which have been solved in the meantime according to the producer:
- Starforce adjusts drives downwards from DMA to PIO mode.
- Starforce will not be removed completely, even if the gamesoftware is removed.
- Remains of Starforce code can easily be misused for hackerattacks.
- Game software secured with Starforce will not run on 64 bit operating systems.
The following points have been approved by the producer and are still implemented:
- Starforce installs hidden device drivers.
- If some certain programs are installed, the game software will not be executed (blacklist).
- Starcorce is not compatible to other copy protection systems (e.g. Securom).
Starforce is blamed for the following points from different sides, although there is no official statement from the producer:
- SCSI drives cannot be utilized, even if IDE drives are installed.
- Starforce is beeing installed without the userīs acknowledgement.
- Starforce monitors any data stream coming from or leading to system drives, even if the game software actually is not running.
- Starforce reboots the system, if it notices something considered as suspicious.
- Starforce causes a loss of performance.
- Starforce stresses drives and storage media excessivly.
- Starforce causes or enhances physical damage to optical drives.
- Some drives cannot read storage media secured with starforce.
The future of Starforce
The newest Starforce version Frontline 4.0 contains a DRM-system (Digital-Rights-Management-System) allowing the producer to control the usage of itīs software installed on the userīs system.
One of the features is the administration of user rights: In a first step the user gets a digital key, which is generated from the characteristics of his hardware components. The aim of such measure is, that software signed with that specific digital key can only be installed onto that specific computer. Thereby it is inevitable to report the customerīs hardware configuration and potentially other data to the publisher. Furthermore it is most likely, that users are in need of a new digital key, if some of the hardware components are being modified.
The second step is the supervision of that digital key. Itīs up to the publisher e.g. to state itīs game software is only for temporary use, so that game content will only be reactivatetd again after a new payment. This also allows new forms of commercialization like billing of costs according to the time software is being used. In any case it would be possible to design game software in a way, that customers have to pay for every new level of one and the same game.