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I recently saw these videos "6 Great Ways Games Punish Piracy"

and "Top 10 Games that Trolled the Cheaters & Pirates"

I would like to ask if the games are already cracked, then how does the game softwares bifurcate between legit and non legit gamers? If software can do that, then wouldn't it defeat the whole purpose of cracking the game? And if the games can do that, then why allow the non legit gamers to play the game in the first place?

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    An interesting question I've wondered about too - but as the answer is likely to be fairly technical in nature this is possibly a better fit for gamedev.stackexchange.com – Alex May 15 '17 at 7:26
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    Presumably the there is some verification code hidden deep in the game's code (Deeper than the usual check-on-launch) that allows them to detect cracks. Possibly checking the integrity of the files usually altered to bypass DRM. – Trent Hawkins May 15 '17 at 7:28
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    As for why? Consider the pirate coding the crack: If they bypass the DRM and the game fails to launch, they know they've missed something, and will continue coding to bypass the next hurdle. If the DRM bypass allows the game to run? They did it! Crack finished, release to the masses. But, whoops, game is broken because the secondary (tertiary?) verification was not caught, back to the drawing board. This delays the release of a functional crack, creates doubt and a lack of trust as to which cracks are functional, and provides comedy gold for your overworked dev team. – Trent Hawkins May 15 '17 at 7:37
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    It depends on the game really. – MadMrCrazy May 15 '17 at 10:23
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    Why allow the non legit gamers to play the game in the first place? Like the second video says, it's to troll them. It's the developers way of getting back at those who took advantage of their hard work. – Timmy Jim May 15 '17 at 10:41
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I would like to ask if the games are already cracked, then how does the game softwares bifurcate between legit and non legit gamers? If software can do that, then wouldn't it defeat the whole purpose of cracking the game?

I expect it has to do with exactly how the game is cracked by pirates. So far as I'm aware, most games use a "key" to authenticate against pirated copies. In the olden days, these keys would be provided separately and you'd input it after installing the game from CD (hence "CD Key") although using more modern game platforms like Steam, I believe the "keys" are just input by the system after being generated based on your account ID, or something.

Bottom line - pirates crack the game by finding ways to circumvent not having a valid key. I won't pretend to understand the nuts and bolts of how cracking a game works - I've never tried it so I have no idea - but that's the ultimate goal.

If all the pirates did was circumvent the portion of code that asks for a key at the start / during installation, then the key's value will still be undefined in the code. Developers can, of course, check for the assigned key value at any time while the game is running. They know where the value should be stored since the wrote the whole thing. If the value is not defined (properly) they can have optional code that executes and ruins the game. Avoiding this functionality would require pirates to somehow identify ALL areas of the code that check the key value - no easy task without access to the source code!

Keygen programs that generate supposedly valid keys can be foiled in a similar manner by defining a subset of seemingly valid keys to be invalid instead. The game's code can keep track of those, and even allow them to "work" during installation and then go off the rails later. But the keygen program would have no way of knowing these keys aren't good.

And if the games can do that, then why allow the non legit gamers to play the game in the first place?

You could, of course, program your game to shut down entirely instead of doing all these weird things. There probably ARE many games that do exactly that - they just aren't worth making internet videos about. However, as Timmy Jim pointed out, the purpose of this odd behaviour is to "troll" pirates by letting them think they've gotten away with it and then ruining the experience after they've already spent a few hours playing.

It also has the side-effect of letting them play for a bit and hopefully get hooked on the gameplay or invested in the story, which might encourage these thieves to go ahead and buy a legitimate copy after all. Of course, that's what demos are for, but pirates rarely bother with demos in my experience.

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  • Interesting answer - do you by chance have any sources for this? – B. S. Morganstein May 15 '17 at 13:58

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