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Codemasters to counter piracy with lunacy

The best way to stop people illegally copying games is apparently to make them look like fools

UK publisher Codemasters has been a thorn in the pirate's side for some time now. Its counter-measures are improving steadily, and according to a press release received yesterday (despite the somewhat unlikely "February 29th 2001" header), their latest PlayStation title, LMA Manager 2001 will tackle piracy by self-destructing, Mission: Impossible style! All right so perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement, but the idea is fairly similar. According to Codemasters, the game, which is released on March 16th, includes encrypted code that enables the game to spot whether or not it's running on a duplicated CDR or not. If it is discovered to be doing so, the code automatically instigates a number of subtle changes that adversely effect gameplay - the release likens it to a software virus, but one that doesn't harm the PlayStation itself. The self-modifying software looks and plays like the real thing, but as players continue, elements of the gameplay start going seriously wrong, such as the player's chosen football team's performance becoming worse and worse (surely that's just a feature? -Ed). The changes that take place apparently become so serious that it renders the pirated game little more than a demo. Not only will the pirates find it hard to get around this problem, but buyers of pirated software will think twice about buying because they don't know whether or not they are receiving a working version. The move is an interesting one for Codemasters, who normally attempt to employ copy protection that prevents duplications. According to producer Simon Prytherch though, "that seems to be getting cracked more easily by ardent pirates so we're trying something new". If the approach proves successful, Codemasters will doubtless adopt it on more of their PlayStation titles and encourage other developers to employ similar measures. An obvious downside to the technique is that it is not a packageable anti-piracy measure. Each game will have to be programmed individually to react in different ways to the discovery that it is running on a duplicate. We're not quite sure why Codemasters didn't just create code that crashes the PlayStation when duplicate copies of games are used or something like that either. Surely creating an individual anti-piracy measure for each and every game is a little far-fetched? The other issue is one of reliability. What is the code makes a mistake? How are measures being taken to prevent that? We'll be watching this one closely, and hope to bring you more coverage of LMA Manager 2001's success in a couple of weeks time.

Source - press release

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Tom Bramwell avatar

Tom Bramwell


Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.