6 Hilarious Ways Game Designers Are Screwing With Pirates
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 ...
Arkham Asylum Turns You Into a Clumsy Batman
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 ."
That's the greatest Batman quote since "I'm counting on it."
LucasArts Gives Pirates a Long, Stern Lecture
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.
Command & Conquer: Not so much
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 ...?"
Japanese Game Outs You as a Pervert
Cross Days is an "erotic visual novel" (porn game) released last year in Japan, but you already knew that. Imagine a cross-dressing anime version of Heavy Rain, with more boning, if you will. This clearly isn't the sort of PC game you would recommend to someone at the office, or set your Facebook profile to post "achievements" of -- which is really unfortunate for those who tried to pirate it.
Really, this is one of the tamest covers to a porno we've ever seen.
What They Did:
As usual, it only took a few days since Cross Days was released for it to be cracked and posted to torrent sites and such. However, some of those pirated copies included a little surprise: a hidden trojan virus passing itself as the game installer that would ask players to fill out a survey full of personal information (like real name and phone number) ... and then post it online for everyone to read.
"Please check the box if you suffer from premature ejaculation."
But most pirates would be likely to lie on that survey, right? Sure, and that's why the virus also took a screenshot of the player's desktop and uploaded it to the same website. If they were hoping to catch the pirates doing something embarrassing, they succeeded: One guy was caught reading plant-related erotica.
At least one guy.
The exposed pirates could always ask for their information to be taken down ... as long as they publicly admitted to illegally downloading a Japanese porn game. The makers probably intended the "illegally downloaded" part to be the most shameful, but we're guessing that's not what the mothers of the pirates took issue with.
"No, you see, mom -- they only look like they're 12!"
The site that hosted the surveys has since been taken down, although some of the compromising desktop screenshots still remain (we'd look for more examples but honestly, we're afraid to).
If one more intern commits ritual suicide, we'll lose our liability coverage.
Most sources seem to imply that the developers themselves uploaded the trojan. Is that even legal? In this case, it actually is: The nature of the virus was mentioned and explained in the installer's Terms of Service agreement -- thus proving that even the companies know nobody reads those things.
Ubisoft Assaults the Ears of Michael Jackson Fans
Illegal downloading of DS games has become such a big problem that Nintendo specifically designed the 3DS to be impossible to hack -- and it still happened within 24 hours. Ubisoft, the company responsible for the DS version of Michael Jackson: The Experience, came up with a much more efficient solution to the piracy problem: create the most unbearably annoying video game of all time.
And then put an anti-piracy feature on it.
What They Did:
The feature is simple, yet utterly effective. The game renders pirated copies unplayable by obliterating the entire soundtrack with the most obnoxious noise known to man: a shitload of vuvuzelas blasting at full volume.
If you ever wondered what Hitler's soul would sound like, there you go. It reminds us of the black plague, or worse yet, a soccer match.
Hell is other people. With vuvuzelas.
As if that wasn't cruel enough, it also makes the game controls disappear as soon as the vuvuzelas come up, presumably in order to drive the player to suicide as he struggles to find a way to exit the current screen. As soon as your instinct of self-preservation kicks in, there will be little you can do to stop yourself from smashing the DS with a rock until it no longer exists.
We'd recommend a pickax. Fewer glass shards end up in your face that way.
So apparently by "The Experience" they meant "the worst moment in your life, possibly." The only way this could get more awful is if they took that soundtrack and slapped it on top of the despicable E.T. game for Atari, creating a vortex of evilness in the fabric of reality.
"This was our plan all along."
Earthbound Crushes Your Soul
Some of the anti-piracy measures in this article are pretty brutal, but none can compare to the classic Super Nintendo RPG Earthbound. For one of the oldest and cutest-looking games on this list, it used surprisingly vicious tactics to not just punish pirates, but also make sure they completely hate themselves afterward.
You don't mess with Ness.
What They Did:
Right off the bat, when you start the game and it detects that you're using a pirated cartridge, you get this warning screen:
"All right, I'll see what the booklet sa- SHIT, I don't have one! BASTARDS!"
Seems like a pretty standard warning, and in fact most pirates would probably assume it's included in every version of the game and ignore it. We believe the creators were counting on that, because what comes afterward is so much worse.
If you've played the game before, you might notice that this time around there seems to be a lot more enemies than you remember. That is fully intentional: The programmers specifically made the game harder in order to mess with your mind. Bear in mind that this is an RPG, so every time run into an enemy you have to go into that stupid "fight" screen.
OK, so it might take you significantly longer to reach the last level, but getting there is by no means impossible. You might even enjoy the challenge if you're an experienced player. Again, that's exactly as the programmers planned it, because after you make your way to the last boss, and just as you're preparing yourself for the final battle ... the screen freezes.
That's right, the game crashes itself entirely out of spite, forcing you to reset the console and reload your saved game in order to- wait a minute, what happened to all your saved games?!
Pictured: 30 to 40 hours down the drain.
Damn. That's cold, Nintendo.
To see how developers lure you in, check out 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted. Or learn about The 7 Commandments All Video Games Should Obey.