Piracy accounts for 31 percent of all Internet traffic and, regardless of your personal opinion on the issue, it really does suck for a lot of game developers. But rather than just try to sue the pants off of everyone who ever logs into Bittorrent, some have started thinking outside the box a little.
These clever folks use much more subtly cruel methods to punish pirates. Like ...
What makes Arkham Asylum so great is that it's the first video game to properly depict exactly how much of a badass Batman can be. You can track enemies with your detective skills, evade their attacks with your gadgets or simply whoop their asses with your impossible martial arts expertise. Previous Batman games, while not necessarily bad, required players to use a lot of their imaginations.
Man, fuck imagination.
In Arkham Asylum, video game Batman finally lives up to his full potential -- unless you pirated the game, that is, then he pretty much sucks.
What They Did:
The developers included a little bit of extra code to detect when the game has been pirated, a common tactic used to track a company's losses or simply mess with cheap people. The game is mostly unchanged when hacked, with one seemingly minor exception: Batman's glider cape is hilariously unusable and has the aerodynamics of a piece of cardboard riddled with bullet holes.
It's not that the cape is faulty, apparently; it's simply that your version of Batman doesn't know how to use it. Instead of gliding from one surface to another, Batman simply opens his wings over and over like a total ass-clown, causing him to lose altitude and fall down. It's like you're being forced to play with the pudgy Batman copycat from the beginning of The Dark Knight.
Wonder how that worked out for him?
All the other gadgets still work, so you can always fight your way across the level on foot, right? Well, yeah, except that without the glider cape you'll be completely stranded in a certain room -- you know, the one filled with poisonous gas. That's right, in the pirated version of Arkham Asylum, the always-prepared Dark Knight is such an useless idiot that he gets himself killed due to his shitty cape.
Much like our friend Timmy, back in fourth grade. They walled off every staircase with roof access that summer.
This trick gets misconstrued a lot as a simple game glitch, so you have people like this guy asking what's wrong with his game at the official Eidos message board ... only for the forum administrator to explain the situation and tell him: "It's not a bug in the game's code, it's a bug in your moral code [punk]."
That's the greatest Batman quote since "I'm counting on it."
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is an old school PC adventure game in the style of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island. Most of these games are remembered for their gloriously pixelated graphics and offbeat sense of humor -- which, it turns out, also extended to the way they fought piracy.
The 80s was a wonderful time for crowded video game cover art.
Figuring that the root of all piracy had to be a lack of parental figures, LucasArts decided to teach anyone who illegally copied this game a lesson in moral responsibility.
What They Did:
Like lots of games, Zak McKracken comes with a serial key showing a random series of symbols. The catch is that you have to input these symbols in the correct order every time you want to fly to other parts of the game's map ... meaning you can't go anywhere unless you have the serial key.
Luckily, in this version of Earth, everything seems to be within driving distance.
So what happens if you decide to take a shot at guessing the code? Well, in that case, you can still continue to play the game -- from prison. That's right, if you enter the wrong code five times, brave Zak McKracken is thrown into an airport "Pirate Jail," presumably after being groped by the TSA.
Also, just in case anyone didn't get why they ended up there, you're stuck with a guard who gives you a long speech about the evils of copyright infringement. There's no way to escape that screen: Your only options are sitting there and being lectured on morality, or turning off the computer and going back to your dull, pointless life.
Here's a video of the whole speech, in German for added effect:
Hoffentlich verfaulst du da drin, indeed.
The main objective in EA's classic real-time strategy game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 is to set up and protect your bases while destroying the ones belonging to the enemy, thus gaining new territory. It is not, as some video game pirates might prefer to believe, to randomly explode in millions of pieces for no reason at all.
We're pretty sure the plot revolves around terrible, unbelievably off-putting facial hair.
What They Did:
Anyone who pirates a copy of Red Alert 2 is in for a little surprise: Within 30 seconds of starting your campaign, your base and all your units will simultaneously explode without provocation, leaving you nothing to play with but a burning crater.
The only thing pirates can do in this situation, having already invested valuable time and, uh ... blank CDs downloading and installing a useless video game, is compete to find out who can cause the fastest premature self-destruction. Some have reported seeing their bases explode in as little as 10 seconds, which appears to be current record.
This trend led EA to publish the popular expansion pack: Fail & Submit.
The only problem is that this glitch has apparently affected some players who own the original game, too. Or maybe they're just really, really bad at the game.
Of course, pirates hoping for a more realistic military experience can always play Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, which features slowly degrading weapons if you play it from a copied CD. As time passes, your guns gradually lose accuracy and firepower until they're roughly as dangerous as a Pez dispenser.
"All right, who's throwing M&Ms on the back of my head ...?"