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The truth behind BioShock copy protection

The truth behind BioShock copy protection

FACT: BioShock copy protection does not cause zombification.

You asked me to investigate about the copy protection issues involved with the PC version of BioShock and I've finally come back with the answers, in full.

The worries were originally bought up when rumours started going around that the PC version of BioShock can only be installed twice, after which the disc becomes little more than a coaster.

Those rumours are false. Kind of.

In a full response, 2K has explained how the copy protection system, which is provided by Securom, works.

"First, let me say this: you DO NOT NEED TO USE THE INTERNET EVERY TIME YOU PLAY THIS GAME. It is only the first time.

Second, you can uninstall and reinstall this game, and if, by chance, you have 2 computers you want to simultaneously play this game on, you also can do that.

If by some chance you are reinstalling this game without uninstalling it first, a lot, there is a chance you may have to call Securom and get a key, or deactivate some older installations.

But if you upgrade your hardware next week, you'll still be able to play the game. If you revamp your system and need to reinstall BioShock, just uninstall it before you go through the overhaul, and then do your reinstall.

Calling it "hardware fingerprinting" is a bit alarmist - we do not transmit any of your data to any companies. Really, the only people who will be concerned about any of these security measures are those who are rapidly putting BioShock on many PCs.f you use the game as you normally do, you won't notice this at all."


So, it's not exactly the problem that everybody was worried about, but there is a copy protection system in place. There is some concern, especially in bit-tech HQ where we have regular system changes and failures, that hard drive failures or formatting may cause customers to lose an 'install credit', but most normal gamers should be okay.

We'll be reporting more on any problems we have with the PC version of BioShock in our full technical review of the game, which Tim and I shall be working on in just a few minutes. In the mean time, why not drop by the forums and whinge about the widescreen problem - oh, except that's been fixed as well now with an unofficial patch.

40 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
quack 23rd August 2007, 12:14 Quote
Why use copy protection at all? As stated time and time again - copy protection only affects people who've paid for the game, and it's a damn nuisance.

I'm sure there will be a NoCD crack produced pretty quickly or some other workaround for those who've bought it and are fed up with digging out the DVD each time.
plagio 23rd August 2007, 12:15 Quote
What I really would like to be assured of is that when you uninstall the game, the SecuROM software gets uninstalled too !
I had bad experience with StarForce in the past, so I am really worried about anti copy crapware.

Also, WHY having such a thing on the demo too ? I doesn't make any sense.
Jamie 23rd August 2007, 12:15 Quote
It's annoying you have to go through the uninstall process if you want to format you pc and reinstall but if it stops some pirates stealing from the developers pockets it seems a fair trade.

As long as a valid customer can easily get securom to clear old installs there shouldn't be a problem.
will. 23rd August 2007, 12:16 Quote
I don't care.
quack 23rd August 2007, 12:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie
if it stops some pirates stealing from the developers pockets
Has it stopped them in the past? Copy protection only disadvantages the buyer.
Jamie 23rd August 2007, 12:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by quack
Has it stopped them in the past? Copy protection only disadvantages the buyer.

There are two standpoints you can take on this subject.

If they put up a barrier it will stop at least some of the casual pirates who have the money to pay for it but will pirate if it's easier than going to a store and buying it.

The other side of the coin is that this sort of copy protection does not stop the hardcore pirates cracking the game and making it easily available online.

There is no perfect solution because we don't live in a perfect world. If people weren't so cheap and payed for things they wanted then there wouldn't be a need for copy protection.
Hamish 23rd August 2007, 12:44 Quote
There are also reports on the 2kforums from several people where uninstalling has NOT given them back an install 'credit'

The only way i can see this copy protection system was supposed to work was to stop casual piracy, the 'proper' warez version wont even have the activation system in it therefore an activation limit is not going to affect them at all.
Its clearly to stop people taking the disc round to their friend's house an install the game there too
However, that friend still needs a legit disc (or a crack at which point any copy protection is irrelevant) in the drive to play
So if there were no activation limit you still couldnt install the same copy on your friend's PC and be able to play at the same time

It doesnt even stop casual piracy...
Tyr 23rd August 2007, 13:02 Quote
Buy it on Steam and forget about SecuROM? :)

*Runs away very quickly, before he is shot by all the Steam haters...*
Hamish 23rd August 2007, 13:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyr
Buy it on Steam and forget about SecuROM? :)

*Runs away very quickly, before he is shot by all the Steam haters...*
steam one still has to be activated via securom in addition to activation through steam
it is also limited to 2 concurrent installs

also apparently the 'backup game files' option in steam doesnt work for bioshock
specofdust 23rd August 2007, 13:35 Quote
There are reports on the 2K forums of people de-activating an installation (by uninstalling it) and still not being able to install it on a new machine.

Also, the activation servers are down.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie
There is no perfect solution because we don't live in a perfect world. If people weren't so cheap and payed for things they wanted then there wouldn't be a need for copy protection.

If companies treated the customers better than the pirates do there'd be less desire and social acceptance of piracy.
DrFreeze 23rd August 2007, 14:02 Quote
lol, now if i accidently forget to uninstall bioshock on one (yeah yeah, TWO whoop-dee-frackin-doo) of my full system upgrade formats, ill have to end up phoning those assholes at securom and as them *pretty please dear sir, could you stop holding my game hostage and let me play?*

i cast a serious BLAH on all this ****, forcing me to individually uninstall my software before doing a full system whipe
DrFreeze 23rd August 2007, 14:03 Quote
oh and one adtional thing, the subscript of the picture says "FACT: BioShock copy protection does not cause zombification. " yet the new item doesnt go into any of the rootkit accusations
cyrilthefish 23rd August 2007, 14:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by quack
Why use copy protection at all? As stated time and time again - copy protection only affects people who've paid for the game, and it's a damn nuisance.

I'm sure there will be a NoCD crack produced pretty quickly or some other workaround for those who've bought it and are fed up with digging out the DVD each time.
Quoted for truth.

This will ONLY affect people who have paid for the game
This WILL NOT stop the game being pirated

Personally, every game i own i have No-CD cracks for, as it's just far too much hassle searching for disks everytime you want to play a game.

When will these companies learn that pissing-off your paying customers while pirates get a better deal is not good business sense... :(
Firehed 23rd August 2007, 14:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie
There are two standpoints you can take on this subject.

If they put up a barrier it will stop at least some of the casual pirates who have the money to pay for it but will pirate if it's easier than going to a store and buying it.

The other side of the coin is that this sort of copy protection does not stop the hardcore pirates cracking the game and making it easily available online.

There is no perfect solution because we don't live in a perfect world. If people weren't so cheap and payed for things they wanted then there wouldn't be a need for copy protection.
That's not the case at all. I have the money to buy games, and I do. But when they pull stunts like this, I just download them. It's just less hassle to run a cracked copy because I don't have to put up with this nonsense. I have quite a few installations of various pieces of software where I've paid for it but have a cracked copy installed, because the last thing I need is for it to randomly decide my serial key is invalid or something equally stupid.

The concept of activation is the worst thing to have ever happened to software. With very few exceptions, I have a paid copy of all the software I use, and those exceptions are professional tools that I use to experiment with (I won't even think about doing profitable work with them until I've paid for it, as I find it morally reprehensible to profit from somebody else's work unless you've paid for your right to do so). I own Windows, but I run a cracked corporate version on my system so that I don't have to deal with activation every few months. Likewise for Office, etc. It's twice as bad with activation systems, since they're so flawed by design. Any system where my ability to use something I've paid for is dependent on somebody else's systems to be correct, up-to-date, or some other thing that can go wrong (and will at the worst possible time) are unacceptable for me.

If they're going to punish their paying customers with this kind of thing, fine. But don't expect me to pay. If they're going to do it like Bethesda did with Oblivion and just give you a straight install disc with not so much as a serial key to muck about with, then I'll happily fork over if it's something I want/need. Partly because I want to show developers that I support that method and money is about the only way for me to do so, partly because I know it won't screw me over later on if something goes wrong their end, but mostly because they're treating me like a paying customer and not a criminal.

You know what they say - make guns illegal and then only the criminals will have guns. Well it's along the same lines here - make it so only cracked versions of your software run then only the crackers will run your software.
Blademrk 23rd August 2007, 14:31 Quote
So you've had a major system crash (your unable to get your system to boot let alone uninstall any software), you've got to phone Microsoft to let them allow you to re-install Windows and then securerom to allow you to reinstall Bioshock...
Just think, if a number of games went through this process it would cost you a small fortune in telephone bills just to get your system back on it's feet (assuming they're noy using freephone numbers).

How many people actually uninstall programs (or even think of uninstalling programs) before wiping their systems?
I know I don't (let's face it, usually if you're wiping your system there's more pressing things on your mind than "did I uninstall that game???").

All the same I think I'll stick to the 360 version,
DougEdey 23rd August 2007, 14:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blademrk

All the same I think I'll stick to the 360 version,

The very definition of "Plug and Play"
naokaji 23rd August 2007, 15:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blademrk
So you've had a major system crash (your unable to get your system to boot let alone uninstall any software), you've got to phone Microsoft to let them allow you to re-install Windows and then securerom to allow you to reinstall Bioshock...
Just think, if a number of games went through this process it would cost you a small fortune in telephone bills just to get your system back on it's feet (assuming they're noy using freephone numbers).

How many people actually uninstall programs (or even think of uninstalling programs) before wiping their systems?
I know I don't (let's face it, usually if you're wiping your system there's more pressing things on your mind than "did I uninstall that game???").

All the same I think I'll stick to the 360 version,

QFT

and, there are also people who dont even bother trying to fix screwed up windows installs like me, personal data on separate partition and slimmed down / unattended install of windows (nlite / vlite forever) ftw....
S1mon 23rd August 2007, 15:14 Quote
What happen if you install / activate, then image your hard drive, uninstall / deactivate and then reapply the image?
Veles 23rd August 2007, 16:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie
There is no perfect solution because we don't live in a perfect world. If people weren't so cheap and payed for things they wanted then there wouldn't be a need for copy protection.

Games like Galactic Civilizations II and Company of Heroes show that there is not really any advantage to copy protection, even though they have none at all, they don't even require a no-CD crack, they still sold well. Yes they were pirated, but no more than other games.
Jamie 23rd August 2007, 16:26 Quote
Quote:

LOL

It does seem that this choice of protection was a big mistake.
atanum141 23rd August 2007, 16:30 Quote
As said before. 360 copy FTW.
Tim S 23rd August 2007, 16:55 Quote
Quote:

:)
leexgx 23rd August 2007, 17:16 Quote
Securom is realy lame as i am betting this game will not even now Install on my pc now (Securom norm works when you start the game this one looks like it does checks before the game is installed) as i use Alcohol 120% i had to no-cd my c&c 3 game as it would not start (an game i payed for) but C&C games have allways used securom (redalert was the first one)

but this new securom has more impact for bugging more norm users, why cant thay just protect the game via product activation or an online key
D3s3rt_F0x 23rd August 2007, 17:19 Quote
This isn't great but really how many of you is this going to affect? Personally I'll install on one PC play it through once or twice, then remove it from my PC so it isnt taking up space and probably never play it again unless i fancy a bit of nostalgia. Although cant say I agree with copy content protection which could be restrictive like this.

Acctually thinking about it the internet is widespread, but needing what is essentially internet activation to play a single player game?
naokaji 23rd August 2007, 17:37 Quote
it gets super funny for people who had technical problems and therefore tried if a reinstall would help.....

try to play wtihout driver hotfix? doesnt work... reinstall game... antivir on your computer? doesnt work... reinstall game... go on internet to figure out you just ****ed up...

its the first time in history i'm glad about a far too late release in europe... that way i atleast got warned of all the trouble the game can be....
wafflesomd 23rd August 2007, 18:56 Quote
Who needs to install the game on multiple pc's?
completemadness 23rd August 2007, 19:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by cyrilthefish
This will ONLY affect people who have paid for the game
This WILL NOT stop the game being pirated
So true, no copy protection to date has stopped pirating (that i know of)

IMO, the best way to do it, is accept that the offline play is lost, but make sure people have to have the full thing for online play
Hell on Dawn Of War they gave up on copy protection in the end, and it now no-longer needs a CD or anything to play, however i think online play requires a valid licence
-EVRE- 23rd August 2007, 20:19 Quote
For me, in the last 6 months.

I have had my raid crash, killing my enitre system. End result:
calling Microsoft to have my copy of windows reactivated.
Reset Itunes since I already had 5 computers with my account.

1 month ago:
Flashed my bios
Somehow this made windows think I had 'Changed my hardware significantly' Along with Itunes....
Now Itunes has a ghost pc /playing music/....

Imagine the hassle I'm going to have to go through if I encounter another hardware failure!

Bioshock sounded like a great game, I was excited to buy and play it.. forget it now.. my blood pressure has enough issues to deal with.
wafflesomd 23rd August 2007, 20:28 Quote
Wow, for those of you who won't buy the game for fear of this copy protection: You're dumb.
specofdust 23rd August 2007, 20:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wafflesomd
Wow, for those of you who won't buy the game for fear of this copy protection: You're dumb.

And I think you're stupid also. Has this exchange of dislike benefitted us? Perhaps we should do it more often.
johnnyboy700 23rd August 2007, 21:31 Quote
I don't think that I'lll have any issue with this, as long as teh game works on widescreen monitors I don't really care what copy protection procedures they implement - as long as they work properly. I seem to recall a lot of bitching about Steam when HL2 arrived, I personally never had any problems with it. Sometimes I wonder if there are just some folk who are looking to find any excuse to complain about loss of freedom of choice with each new restriction that appears.

The best example I can think of why copy protection should exist is a third hand tale I heard about IL2, apparently Oleg Maddox was incensed to find out that most of the complainers about a copy protection feature he'd added to one of the many update patches were from people running pirated copies of the game.
MiNiMaL_FuSS 23rd August 2007, 21:53 Quote
this was clearly a poor move and a cmplete waste of time, there are pissed off bioshock buyers everywhere, because the 2k servers went down and the buyers were unable to activate their legit copies of the game! Not only that but it has in no way stopped the piracy of this game; there are loads of full retail copies of Bioshock all over the net already and the protection has already been cracked....although personally I'll be buying the game as this one actually looks worthwhile.
DougEdey 23rd August 2007, 22:13 Quote
Levine has confirmed that it's being removed.
specofdust 23rd August 2007, 22:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DougEdey
Levine has confirmed that it's being removed.

Got a link on that?
Hamish 23rd August 2007, 22:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DougEdey
Levine has confirmed that it's being removed.
unless you've got another link, no he didnt
http://kotaku.com/gaming/son-of-sad-panda/levine-responds-to-bioshock-copy-protecton-woes-292834.php

what he said was
Quote:
I've followed up on the circular email with securom and we are working on this issue. I agree, it sucks, and we need to get that sorted.

I've been told by 2k that we will.

-Ken
that is hardly confirmation of removal

its promising but until they actually state that its being removed..
specofdust 23rd August 2007, 23:29 Quote
Perhaps Bit-tech should test claims like the one made by a 2K, as another publication did, in future before printing falsehoods?
LeMaltor 23rd August 2007, 23:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
Perhaps Bit-tech should test claims like the one made by a 2K, as another publication did, in future before printing falsehoods?

They should not have to, they should not be lied too
Joeymac 24th August 2007, 00:07 Quote
Did anyone else read "Securom" as "scrotum"....

Since I've got a 360 I've stopped playing PC games... or buying new one's at least. The widescreen thing, the drivers.. patching... activation lockouts after TWO(!) installs.. It's been out a DAY! It's all ridiculous.
Maybe I'll go back to "the PC" when they have finished it.
GoodBytes 24th August 2007, 01:52 Quote
[sarcasm]
But I like the protection system! I mean doesn't 80% of the price covers the cost of the protection system rather then the game/software?
It's like "Buy this protection system of a software, and have this FREE game !!!"
[/sarcasm]
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