Walking the game-plank

Walking the game-plank

Whether you’re a casual pirate or a veteran store customer, a hardworking indie developer or a copyright lawyer for one of the media conglomerates, video game piracy is now an inevitable part of the gaming landscape.

Regardless of conviction, one must wonder: how would you stop the pirates? Much time and effort has been spent on this pursuit, with limited results.

Developers have found a swag of different ways to stop pirates; here’s a selection of the more dastardly copyright defence-triggers.

Earthbound, Nintendo Entertainment System
The NES cult classic featuring Smash Bros veteran Ness faced some of the earliest attempts at videogame piracy and put in a number of triggers to mess with pirates.

When the game detects a copyright infringement, it floods gameplay with a difficult (but intentionally surmountable) number of enemies to encourage more determined pirates to fight on.

Other than the engorged enemy hordes, the rest of the gameplay remains the same: all the way up until halfway through the Earthbound’s final boss battle when the game freezes, resets, deletes all save files and restores the cartridge to factory settings.

Batman: Arkham Asylum, Cross-platform
Some copyright traps are as simple as busting a game by taking away upgrades or bombarding players with sarcastic messages; but Batman has always dealt his lessons harshly.

After the game’s success on console platforms, Rocksteady released a PC port just as the culture of torrenting and mass piracy began to take hold. Fearing online piracy’s effect on sales they added a single devious glitch to cracked versions of the game.

Gameplay remains unchanged but the trigger takes away from the otherwise very human Bruce Wayne the video-game-super-power of gliding; the sort of gliding that covers four Gotham blocks; the sort of gliding required for everything after the first hour’s play.

Grand Theft Auto IV, Cross-platform
Before the latest instalment of Rockstar’s flagship series was even released, 17,000 digital copies were illegally downloaded via torrents. So one of the wicked minds over at Rockstar decided to include two devious traps for young pirates.

After fifteen minutes of play a cracked game camera starts to go a little wild, slowly progressing from a stumbling inconvenience to a careening blur of Bourne Identity proportions.

If a pirate can make his way through the haze and successfully commandeer a vehicle they will meet GTAIV ‘s second copyright taunt. Any vehicle that the player gets into will not only catch fire, but will also immediately accelerate to full speed and deactivate the steering controls (perhaps a little ironic for the franchise that popularised realistic criminal behaviour in the first place).

Michael Jackson – The Experience, DS/PSP
2010 was a bizarre year for us all, not least of all for those trying desperately to cash in on the passing of the King of Pop. Ubisoft were posthumously licensed with the singer’s likeness to create a game that put you in his signature shoes.

It sort of tanked on home consoles but was a massive hit on the DS and PSP mobile platforms and as is usual, this success bred fear of piracy, which bred devious ingenuity.

The 2009 soccer world cup and its international peeve gave the game’s creators a fantastic idea – would pirates still enjoy their pirated game if all of the instruments from the Jackson songs were replaced with vuvuzuealas?

The answer is a resounding BBBBBBZZZZZZZZZZ.

Crysis Warhead, Windows
Wacky German developers Crytek walk the line between passive-aggressive piracy deterrent and being in on the whole damn thing.

Warhead is a standalone alien invasion expansion for Crytek’s first Crysis game and in a move reminiscent of South Park 64, cracking the game replaces all of the weapons and ammunition with chickens.

Check mate pirates.

Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons. Information sourced from IGN, Cracked and Gamerant

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