It’s a weird time for video game pirates. For a few years there, it was bad business to even make PC ports of games, because they were stolen within a matter of hours. Now, anti-cracking measures are causing games to become unstable when pirated, and within the next two years, we may see pirated games become entirely a thing of the past. That’s a shame, because a lot of hilarity has come from anti-pirating measures.
Here’s a selection of some of our favorite tricks and traps from developers building security measures for the lost art of in-game privacy protection.
A small programming trick in this parkour game causes the main character to slow down just before big jumps, making it impossible to succeed. This was probably maddening to experience first hand.
Serious Sam 3
This is probably one of the best modern piracy prevention measures, and maybe the last great one if piracy is on its way out. You can steal a copy of Serious Sam 3 and play it just fine — for a while. Then, a gigantic immortal super fast scorpion will chase you around the map and murder you to death. Quite a surprise for players that thought they’d gotten away with scamming a copy. Behold:
A weird little message about “fish” pops up in the credits. It was just bizarre enough to make people write to the game dev to ask what the heck it meant. What it meant was you were outing yourself as a pirate. Clever.
In a bigger twist on the Skullgirls self-outing trick, the developer of Gary’s Mod had the game give a nonsense error that said “Unable to shade polygon normals,” followed by an error code. The catch is, the error code was specifically tied to that person’s online Steam account and so by posting the error you revealed the account your theft was tied to. Ouch. Recent games including Batman: Arkham City have played a similar trick by removing controls for certain aspects of the game.
Game Dev Tycoon
In this game about the business of making video games, an in-game notification pops up if the game is stolen, highlighting the irony of this situation. “Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn’t want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers,” Greenhearts Patrick Klug explained in a blog post.
Amazingly, game pirates took to the web to complain about this notification, and how game piracy was making it impossible for their Sim Game Company to turn a profit. Self-awareness was never the internet’s strong suit.
Red Alert 2
Your game starts. You move your units. About a minute in, everyone you know (in the game, thank god) explodes.
The Witcher 2
While the games are DRM free, sketchy copies come with a twist. Some kill off the hero in the first few hours of the game via cutscene. Some cause you to romance your own grandmother? I’m just… I’m just not touching this one.
If you pirate the game, Alan wears a pirate eye-patch the whole game, so when you look at his face it is a reminder that you are an ass.
The Sims 4
If you happened to download this off the internet, the pixelation normally saved for nudity in the game starts to suck up the entire screen.
This one is just plain mean. There are several layers of anti-piracy protection throughout the game, but if you hack the rest you still wind up making it to the final boss — whereupon the game locks up and deletes all of your save games. Brutal.
Michael Jackson: The Experience
You thought you were going to get some sweet sweet Michael Jackson tracks, huh. Instead, you guessed it, vuvuzelas.
You want some big gun military action? Well, you aren’t going to get it if you steal this game because all of the bullets will be replaced with chickens.