Now This Is How Copy Protection Should Be Done, People

In their attempts to thwart pirates, most PC publishers end up pissing off paying customers with intrusive or bothersome DRM. All, that is, except for Bohemia Interactive, who the likes of EA and Ubisoft could learn a thing or two from.

Bohemia's games have long used a copy protection system called FADE, which is part-security device, part wonderful troll.

You see, most forms of DRM, or digital rights management, try to cut the user off at the source. Prevent them from ever booting their game up. This may sound good on paper, but once pirates get past the gates—and they always get past the gates—they're free to play the game.

But FADE lets pirates download a game and start playing. Start enjoying the title, seeing what all the fuss is about. It's only a few hours in that things start to go a little wrong. In Bohemia's ArmA, for example, your aim starts to get a little wonky. You'll notice the AI getting erratic. These glitches start to slowly increase in size and occurrence until, bam, you've been turned into a bird, or the screen looks like it's suddenly underwater.

Sometimes the pirate knows what this is and admits the defeat, but other times it gets even better. They take to official forums to complain, where they're revealed as pirates. Other times, because they've got a taste for the game, they'll do the right thing and go and buy a copy.

Once FADE hits this point there's no recovery, and to this day, a decade after it was first used, from Operation Flashpoint through to Bohemia's recent Take On Helicopters, there's yet to be a widespread means for pirates to circumvent the system.

If it works for Bohemia, and can even encourage sales instead of punishing legitimate customers, surely other publishers could give something similar a shot?

TAKE ON HELICOPTERS: Security for us secures the future for gamers [Gamasutra (Press Release)]


    There was Earthbound's anti-piracy measure, too. Legitimate customers wouldn't even know it's there. Pirates would get to the final boss only to have their save wiped.
    When was the decision made to go from DRM that targets pirates and inconveniences them, to DRM that targets everybody and inconveniences legitimate customers?

      I've had friends in the past buy a legit copy of a game and after having too much trouble with the DRM bullshit actually go back and refund the game. Of course they'd come straight home and grab a pirate copy, which would work without a hitch.

      So yeah I'm all for this sort of DRM that punishes the pirate and not the legit player. I would love to see a vid of this sort of DRM in action, it sounds pretty hilarious.

        Umm LoL. Excuse my lack of noticing the video directly in front of my face :P

    Hahaha, that's brilliant. Definitely needs to
    be used by more companies

    lol I swear something like this would happen in the Sims 2, I owned the sims 2 but me and my mate wanted to play at my house at the same time, so I installed it on another comp and just cracked it for the time being, his sims were incredibly unlucky hah!

    Garry Newman did something similar with Gmod, where he made a bug that only affected pirated copies, and whoever reported the bug got banned.

    Personally I still don't see any DRM as effective or good. This type may be the better kind, being hilarious and not harming buyers, but in the end it still sends a negative message about the game and its community; it may be sending it to something already considered negative, but you don't need more people claiming that your game is buggy, or that the community are assholes, even if the one's doing so are in the wrong.

    Also: "there’s yet to be a widespread means for pirates to circumvent the system."

    How is this the case? If a crack isn't designed to remove/ignore the protection then it's designed to fool the game into believing it is legitimate. I find it hard to believe that the crackers haven't managed that.

      Personally I don't see this DRM affecting the quality of ARMA nor its community. The fact people are experiencing the DRM just means there is an incentive to go legit.

        I didn't say that it affected the actual quality of the game or communities, but the perceived qualities.

        I can't speak for everybody, especially since I have not pirated these games and encountered this protection, but if I was playing a pirate copy of these types of games and they started wigging out on me, I should not feel encouraged to buy it.

        I also wonder how this protection deals with false-positives as well as people who like to crack their legitimate copies.


    Damned brilliant! I seem to recall the folks who did Batman:AA pulled a similar stunt. Except this time around Batman couldn't get an equipment and areas were locked out coz they didn't have the equipment...

    Tons of ppl whinged about the "bug" on forums.. at which point the pubs pointed out whats wrong... it was DRM feature and all the people who triggered the "bug" were pirates! XD

    Black and White II did something just as good :)
    Children couldn't mature :) so you had a lot of cry babies staying around your base :D

    Kind of reminds me of some DRM i remember reading about for a Japanese PC game. It would screen grab your desktop and upload to some site for the world to see. You could get it taken down, you had to ask though.

    Regardless of my position on DRM, i always do like reading about the more creative methods.

      That would be highly illegal and break many countries privacy acts.

    The best DRM was for Michael Jackson experience on DS
    None of the promps would show up, and the music had blaring vuvuzelas over it!

    You'd think having a title like "Michael Jackson Ecperience on DS" would be deterrent enough...

    Ecperience. It's the sequel to the acclaimed Michael Jackson experience on DS.

    You forgot to mention Valve in that little list. STEAM is the REASON EA and Unisoft are doing what there doing. Becuse Valve proved that it works. Everyone who bangs on about Ubi and EA seam to forget that it was Valve, and STEAM that really started it all. 'Oh, but STEAM is not DRM!'

    Well, actually, it IS DRM.

      Steam was hardly the first copy protestion though, and its easily the least intrusive. Yeah, its drm. But its drm that provides a service. It makes updating so easy, I dont like buying games that aren't on steam any more.

        That's all well and good but then I seem to recall times when Steam had crashed due to a system overload when a AAA title came out. There I was, paid copy in hand, being told "Servers are busy. Try again later". Incredibly frustrating.

      On that note, Half-Life 2 is the first game I heard of using the Fade anti-piracy technique. You can play for a while but not long after meeting Alex, you'll reach an elevator that refused to open if you've pirated the game.

      Likewise, Mirror's Edge works briefly, but reduces the distance that Faith can jump so that it quickly becomes impossible to get through the levels.

      Steam is GOOD DRM though. You can install on multiple machines, and easily reinstall (complete with save games and stats) without the original discs if you reformat your machine.

      I honestly can't think of a reason why Steam is bad.
      It's not like with movies, where if you legitmately purchase a copy you have to sit through an anti-piracy warning that you can't skip but doesn't exist on pirated copies.

      the reason that steam works is that it adds value to the product; its not only an easy way to get your hands on other good games, but it also adds a cross-game community platform and a chat system. You can play most games with steam-offline too.

      oh yeah, and steam is pretty easy to circumvent as well.

    i remember the razor 911 ver of op flashpoint. i didn't seem to notice any "fade"....even the NFO stated they saw no evidence of it.

    I always liked the Arkham Asylum DRM. Pirated versions of the game couldn't use the glide feature.

    I Feel I must show you guys this

    This Bohemia Interactive DRM looks fantastic and more game developers and publishers should use this on their PC games instead of using that crappy and ineffective SecuRom, I'm looking at you EA!!!!

    Haha, my best friend pirates games to see if they’re worth buying, 90% of the time he goes out and buys them if they’re good.

    Doesn’t trust demos, says they’re like trailers which rarely reflect a game accurately.

    So if a game gets glitchy and pisses him off I wont blame him if he doesn’t buy it.

    I think my (legit) copy of Dark Souls has a bug where this form of DRM is activated. My character keeps dying and the game is hard and mean. How do I fix this?

    GTA 4 on PC had a drunk effect if you had a hacked version. Boy it made it hard to tell what was going on!

    I liked Metal Gear Solid's way of doing it. Early in the game, you need to call Meryl on the codec. The game clearly tells you her frequency number is on the back of the game case.

    Worked well back before the internet was so accessible. Too much hassle to plug in your phone line, dial up, then spend 10 minutes loading one page with the frequency on it. Obviously wouldn't work these days though.

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