That’s a rather controversial and provocative post title there, but bear with me.
For a bit of context that is already written by someone else so I don’t have to do it, please check out Shamus Young’s essay on Publisher Priorities as well as the epic three part series on piracy in general.
However, I suppose I shall write a bit on my views about copy protection as well, just to make myself clear. I believe that once you pay for a game, morally you may do whatever you need to do to be able to play it at your convenience. For example, if you bought Super Mario Brothers at full price when it was originally released back in the 1980s, and you still have the cartridge but your NES is broken, then why not download an emulator and a ROM and play on your PC?
Screw legality, I’m talking morality here. If you have a Wii or a GBA, you could also get another “legal” copy of SMB. But the fact is that you already have a perfectly “legal” copy that you actually paid good money for. If the ROM is an exact copy of the information sitting forlornly in your useless-to-you NES cartridge, what is the actual difference between playing it on your PC and playing it on your NES?
Think about it: If you have a PC game from 17 or so years ago, such as Ultima Underworld 2, odds are that you’re going to need a copy that isn’t from the original disks because those disks most likely don’t work anymore. In fact, you probably made a backup copy for yourself. This used to be standard practice.
Now I know why publishers would be reluctant to allow anyone to make copies of published games at a whim. Piracy is rampant. There are a lot of bottom-feeders out there who simply download torrents of games they’ve never owned and never even consider paying for them at any price. But that’s not me.
Back in the day, I used to make boot disks, freaking boot disks, for my PC games. I still have to fiddle with DOS Box to get them to work on XP. It’s the nature of the beast. So I’m not too concerned about driving over a few speed bumps to play my games, but I really don’t care for roadblocks. I’m also just as unconcerned about removing a few of those roadblocks via “illegal” cracks. Speaking of which…
I recently bought Taito Legends 1 and 2. In fact, I have PHOTOGRAPHIC PROOF:
You can tell it’s not a stock photo because it’s so rushed and amateurish. (Incidentally, I left the price tags on there, but TL1 was actually $5. The correct price tag was on the side. Another photo would just waste bandwidth, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.)
Anyway, I am quite happy with TL1 & 2. However, despite the fact that they drop 500 MB of genuine arcade games* onto my hard drive, Taito still expects me to put in the CD every time I want to play the games. Back in the days when games actually read data off of CDs because hard drive space was so precious, this would have been acceptable. However, I have no intention of lugging CDs around when all the data I need is on my hard drive. For one thing, they could get damaged in my backpack.
So I searched for, downloaded and installed a “No CD” crack for the games. (A patch for software made by a third party with the intent to bypass copy protection is called a “crack”.) Now they play perfectly fine and don’t require a CD to work. I’m not going to let anyone “borrow” the CDs and the crack because that would be piracy. I cracked just my copy, purely for the convenience of the consumer who paid for the games: me.
DEViANCE, the guys who made the crack, have this to say:
We do this just for FUN. We are against any profit or commercialisation
of piracy. We do not spread any release, others do that. In fact, we
BUY all our own games with our own hard earned and worked for efforts.
Which is from our own real life non-scene jobs. As we love game
originals. Nothing beats a quality original. Support the software
companies. If you play this game BUY it!
Well, you know what, guys? I did. I did buy it, and I’m very happy that you made the NoCD patch for me. I’m happy, Taito’s happy, Gamestop is happy, and DEViANCE is happy.
This is a relatively benign example of this sort of thing, but the fact is that I will not tolerate having access to my entertainment be inconvenient. It’s not going to happen. It’s a big reason why so many people have given up on PC gaming. In fact, of the people I’ve asked, I’m the only one in my classes that still plays games on the PC.
It’s possible that whatever means the various publishing companies have for sniffing out pirated software will give a “false positive” for my copies of TL 1 & 2. But I really don’t care. I’ve written pages about this now, so they can check my weblog if they’re so worried about me.
And now for a paragraph praising Steam, as if I haven’t written enough about it already:
Steam’s insistence on checking my account via the Internet every so often is tolerable. Furthermore, it has plenty of perks like automatic updating, permanently keeping track of (and therefore providing me with backups forever) my games, and such. Other than subverting the design of Half Life 2 by copying the levels into my Portal directory and causing much confusion for the poor, poor enemy AI, I’ve had no reason to mess with any Steam-downloaded games. This is probably why so many publishers are jumping onto the Steam bandwagon every week. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best solution I’ve encountered for keeping me from cracking games. 😉
*Each of the games has it’s own “ROM” directory, which I presume holds the actual ROM ripped from the original machines. (Legally, it’s perfectly okay if the original company does this.) I’m curious if maybe I could get these ROMs to run on another emulator, but that’s a project for another day.
EDIT: I just looked at the date and realized it’s April 1st. To be clear: this isn’t supposed to be an April Fool’s joke. I probably should have come up with something this year, but the remnants of the stomach virus from yesterday have kept me in a serious mood.