It's been a while since we last talked about inventive ways game have messed with players who'd fallen to the dark side of the sail. Have anti-piracy measures become so successful that they crushed all pirate activity? Not just yet. There are still those who try their luck at playing without paying, only to find out that the devious developers are playing chess while they're playing ... well, nothing ...
Skullgirls is a popular fighter from a few years back that changed up the classic Street Fighter formula by adding an expected amount of girls, but surprising lack of skulls as promised by the title.
"The real skull was inside you all along."
The creators wanted to prevent the game from being pirated, but instead of taking the upfront "DON'T PIRATE OUR GAME, LONG JOHN STEALER!" pop-up approach, they decided to play it smart. They made sure that when playing a pirated version of Skullgirls, the game's dialogue would turn into baby-level gibberish.
Unaware of the trap, a "fan" made-up for not paying for the game by informing the developers about this glitch he needed fixed to keep on playing. How altruistic.
The developers promptly revealed that the solution was to pay for the damn game. They did that not via private message, but in one of the most underrated "GOT YOUR ASS!" moments in the history of Twitter.
Games like Serious Sam 3 have already implemented anti-piracy mechanics in the form of an unbeatable bouncer who'll hunt down pirates from the beginning of the game, but how about reversing the order? Leading pirates to believe they can get away with it, only to crush their hopes in the end like they crushed the indie developers' prospects of making rent.
Pirated copies of the indie Shooting Stars! play regularly until one of the final levels where pirates are greeted with hordes of nearly unbeatable enemies. The vast majority of players who weren't good enough to conquer the absurdly unfair challenge would have to quit, but those who happened to overcome the nearly insurmountable odds sealed an even worse fate for themselves. Upon beating the penultimate lair, the final boss emerges. He looks like someone who's been kicked out of Daft Punk and is so angry we assume his dismissal must have taken place right before those "Get Lucky" bucks started rolling in. "Free Punk" also has unlimited health, so it's only a matter of time until the pirates die, and the game recommends they buy a legit copy of the game next time.
NieR: Automata is a waifu simulator that also managed to fit in one of the best games of 2017 as a sidequest.
Automata's success on consoles got the developers to rush out a PC port, which came plagued with all sorts of game-breaking problems. Then, out of nowhere came a patch that fixed most of the port's issues. Players who'd paid for the game, along with nearby stores selling Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew, were thrilled. Pirates, however, not so much.
Turns out that this patch added a new actual game mechanic where the playable character (a cyborg) runs a check on whether or not the game's copy is original. In the event that the players are using a pirated copy of the game, the check would fail, branding the character as a pirated unit.
Plot twist: this patch wasn't even made by the game's publisher, but by Kaldien, a rogue independent dev who just wanted to do right by them.
Pirates harshly criticized Kaldien's work, citing that altering the game sets a dangerous precedent -- apparently one that's a bigger problem than not paying for it. Weird, because other than the "branding," the mod doesn't really hinder the game in any other way and doesn't even feel that out of place in a game where eating the wrong fish once will get you killed.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks immediately lives up to its name as one of the first things players have to do is learn how to drive a train, which makes us wonder how many retired dads were involved in designing this game. And it's especially hard for pirates -- not just because they're only used to ships -- but also because pirated copies will intentionally start throwing all sorts of bonkers problems at players who took the free ticket.
The game will begin by removing the train's user interface, then slow the train down to the point that walking would be faster. But players can't walk because this is the mandatory fun train learning part of the game. Pirates' only solace will be pigs, and by solace, we mean that the pigs seem to be very keen on the cheaters of this world, as they actively try to get hit by the train to slow it down even further.
Dragon Quest V for the Nintendo DS gave players the chance to play as a pirate, so naturally, some players took the chance to live the pirate-life in and out of the game. Square Enix planned ahead; at the starting point of the game, players are to set sail to go on their big adventure, one which true pirates will successfully start upon reaching port ...
... but one that the scallywags who've pirated the game won't because their game will be just this:
As it turns out, they deleted the entire world in the sea around the people who've pirated the game and basically had them set course for a neverending loading screen. Unlike other games that stop pirated games midway or call out players using illegal copies, this one just has them eternally longing for land but given endlessly empty waters -- think that famous Kevin Costner movie, but worse:
Damn water hazards.
Top image: Square Enix, Nintendo